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Canadian officials intend to be ready long before Games


TURIN, Italy -- Only 1,445 days to go before athletes begin writing the history of the next Winter Games.

After a European vacation, the Olympics shift back to North America, taking up residence in Vancouver, British Columbia. The opening ceremony will be held Feb. 12, 2010.

"The pressure is lifting from Torino and moving toward us," said John Furlong, head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee. "It's our time starting Monday to fly the flag of the Winter Games. Great things are expected of us."

Stadium events will be held in the city and neighboring suburbs. The skiing competitions will be held in the mountain resort of Whistler, 80 miles north of Vancouver.

Furlong said that unlike Turin and Athens, where construction was going on until minutes before the opening ceremony, Vancouver expects to have all venues ready two years out; several, such as the bobsled track and speed skating oval, are under construction. A highway connecting the city to Whistler -- considered the biggest hurdle -- is half-finished.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing organizers is ensuring that tickets sold are tickets used. Many sold-out events in Turin were sparsely attended, said Dave Cobb, the marketing director of the Vancouver committee.

"It affects the atmosphere, the spectator experience and the athletes' performances," he said.

Organizers traced the problem to sponsors who purchased too many tickets and didn't have an efficient way to unload them. A ticket redistribution system will solve that problem, Cobb said.

This will be the third time Canada has played host to the Olympics. Montreal was the site of the 1976 Summer Games. In 1988, Calgary was the site of the Winter Games.

The Vancouver area was a finalist for the 1976 Winter Games. In 2003, it beat Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2010 Games.

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