Cana­di­ans burst­ing with an­tic­i­pa­tion as cur­tain rises on Olympics

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY STEPHANIE LEVITZ

VAN­COU­VER — When most peo­ple hold their breath, they turn blue.

For the mil­lions of Cana­di­ans wait­ing for the start of the 2010 Win­ter Olympics to­day, they’ve been turn­ing red.

The na­tion has waited for more than 20 years for th­ese Olympics to fi­nally claim a prize de­nied twice be­fore: an Olympic gold medal on home soil.

In this sim­ple piece of metal are cast the hopes and dreams of the coun­try and by the time the Olympics be­gin, Canada will be full to burst­ing with an­tic­i­pa­tion.

And that’s ex­actly how the Van­cou­ver Olympic or­ga­niz­ing com- mit­tee wants it.

When they bid for the Games in 2003, said VANOC chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer John Fur­long, it was with a very dis­tinct vi­sion. “ We thought we could be a na­tion builder,” he said. “The Games could

be a mo­ment in time for Canada where ev­ery Cana­dian could feel like they had par­tic­i­pated in not just watch­ing this and cheer­ing it on, but in ac­tual fact play­ing a role in help­ing it be suc­cess­ful.”

The ef­fort put into com­mu­ni­cat­ing that dur­ing the bid was in part why Van­cou­ver won, said Ger­hard Heiberg, the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee mem­ber who over­saw the eval­u­a­tion com­mis­sion for the bid.

“It’s a ques­tion of the peo­ple you meet, the pre­sen­ta­tions they have, the an­swers to our ques­tions, the con­fi­dence they build up in the eval­u­a­tion team,” Heiberg said in an in­ter­view.

“ We felt very strongly that on all as­pects, John and his team were very, very good.”

The IOC likes to talk a lot about the last­ing “ lega­cies” of each Games and there will be some tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits for peo­ple in the Van­cou­ver area long af­ter the Olympic flame is ex­tin­guished on Feb. 28.

The venues will all be used af­ter the Olympics, whether for their orig­i­nal pur­poses or for com­mu­nity cen­tres, and legacy fund­ing is in place to help guard against sud­den drains on gov­ern­ment pock­et­books.

The City of Van­cou­ver also re­ceived a new rapid tran­sit line from the air­port and fi­nal com­ple­tion of a con­ven­tion cen­tre that in­ter­na­tional broad­cast­ers are us­ing for the Games and that many say is the best they’ve ever seen. The high­way be­tween Van­cou­ver and Whistler, the site of ski­ing and slid­ing com­pe­ti­tions, has been up­graded.

To fi­nance their $1.75 bil­lion-bud­get Games, or­ga­niz­ers turned to the well-trod path of get­ting spon­sors to sup­ply much of what they needed, from mat­tresses in the ath­letes vil­lage to power gen- er­a­tors for the venues.

But those kinds of deals and prom­ises of phys­i­cal lega­cies are the main­stay of Olympic bids.

While they may rally a re­gion, they do not rally a coun­try.

“It’s not rea­son­able to think that peo­ple in On­tario and Que­bec are go­ing to be all that in­ter­ested in whether the buses get to Whistler on time or the tech­nol­ogy works,” said Fur­long.

“ They’ll be more in­ter­ested in turn­ing on the tele­vi­sion set and see­ing a Cana­dian ath­lete cross the fin­ish line and hear O Canada the same day. So our goal was to try and to help cre­ate that ex­cite­ment.”

So or­ga­niz­ers went prov­ince to prov­ince, ask­ing them to con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially to the Olympics in ex­change for be­ing given space and time to pro­mote them­selves be­fore a global au­di­ence.

They also de­signed an am­bi­tious, 106-day Olympic flame re­lay that would come within an hour’s drive of 90 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

“ They will all feel they’ve all had a role to play... giv­ing it a push, a nudge, and they feel they’re not watch­ing some­thing that’s be­ing organized by a few Cana­di­ans, but watch­ing some­thing they’ve all had a hand in,” said Fur­long. But that still wasn’t enough. Van­cou­ver or­ga­niz­ers de­cided to ven­ture a step fur­ther.

They were go­ing to come out in favour of the home team.

“ The prospect of bring­ing the whole coun­try to­gether would be di­min­ished if we didn’t go into the Games with the prospect of the Cana­dian team do­ing very well,” said Fur­long.

“ We’re the only coun­try in Olympic his­tory not to win a gold medal at home. The fo­cus was to try to not just get that mon­key off our back but to re­ally give the coun­try some­thing that they could re­ally feel ex­cited about.”

To­gether with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee of­fi­cials they ran the am­bi­tious Own the Podium pro­gram, a $117 mil­lion ef­fort to en­sure Canada wins more medals than any other coun­try at th­ese Games.

It was a gutsy move for an or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, whose job in the past has been merely to act as the gra­cious host for the world and show off a lit­tle bit of their coun­try’s charm while they’re at it.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Tony Ben­shoof of the United States prac­tises dur­ing a men’s sin­gles luge train­ing run at the Van­cou­ver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, B.C., Thurs­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.