February 27, 2006

“O Canada” — countdown starts for 2010 Games

By Elizabeth Piper

TURIN (Reuters) - "O Canada" reverberated around Italy's
Olympic Stadium on Sunday and the North American country
invited the world to "come play with us in 2010."

It was Vancouver's first eight minutes in the Olympic
limelight, and they really did enjoy it.

With pop rocker Avril Lavigne singing for all she was
worth, the city's mayor Sam Sullivan took the Olympic flag,
with relish, and slotted it into a special device that fitted
on the side of the wheelchair so he could wave it.

The countdown to 2010 Winter Olympics began.

"I think it will be unbelievable, Vancouver will do it
right. It will be a wonderful Olympics," Russ Howard, part of
the Canadian men's curling team who won the world's biggest
curling nation its first men's gold.

Vancouver hope the 2010 Games will see a team of young
athletes come of age and bag a raft of medals.

Cindy Klassen, who took five gold medals, and Sullivan, a
quadriplegic after a skiing accident he suffered as a teenager,
will inspire a team that plan to hone their skills on the
slopes and at the ice rinks to dominate the Games.

"I said to the officials that the movement of 'own the
podium' ... has already produced incredible results," president
of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, said of
his chats with Canadian officials.

"More importantly you have a young generation ... the
Canadian team will be ready in four years."


The team will not be the only preoccupation for the
Canadian Games organizing committee.

They will also want to make sure that stadiums are full and
that transport is efficient for their Olympic adventure --
criticisms that were leveled at the Turin organizers in the
early days of the competition.

"Ticketing continues to be a challenge for Olympic
organizing committees. organizing committees strive to sell
every seat and (the committee) is committed to look for
creative ways to ensure venues are full and ticketing revenues
are maximized," the committee said in a statement.

Canadian officials have said they intend to look into ways
of ensuring that companies and individuals not planning to use
tickets are able to turn them over so someone else can.

Transport will also be a priority. In Italy's mountains,
spectators often had to travel for hours to get to the venues.
And at the start, many bus drivers, drafted in from other
cities, got lost.

"Torino 2006 faced many of the same transportation
challenges that Vancouver 2010 will face with mountain and city
venues organized in clusters," the committee said, adding it
was crucial that transport was good to make sure stadiums were

With an overheated economy in British Columbia, Vancouver
might also see its budget grow.

But if Vancouver's mayor gets his way, they will practice
until they get it right -- as he did with his flag.

"This is top secret stuff. There are several parking lots
in Vancouver that I have been going to in the middle of the
night," he told a news conference.

"People have made reports to the police about strange
activities happening in the parking lots. But it's just me, the
mayor of Vancouver, practicing my flag waving."

(Additional reporting by Rachel Sanderson)