Last week I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend some of the events at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada courtesy of our industry partners Tourism Whistler.
Over the next week, I will recount the tales and the lessons I learnt…
Wednesday 24th February
After a fairly routine 10hr15mins long haul flight on Air Canada from Heathrow direct to Vancouver, I was slightly bemused to find the baggage re-claim hall packed with staff and visitors watching Canada pound Russia in an important ice hockey match. Lesson 1: Canadians love ice hockey.
The arrivals hall was even more boisterous – the whole place was filled with National Teams, VANOC staff, airport staff and visitors going absolutely nuts over the ice hockey. It was a really amazing atmosphere and I was a bit sad to jump on the transfer bus, as the game was only in the second of the three periods. Along the route from the airport into downtown Vancouver there was Olympic branding and Canadian flags literally everywhere – Vancouver has done an amazing job promoting the games. Even the highway road signs were flashing ‘Go Canada’. Bonkers.
As the bus reached the centre of Vancouver we passed the ice hockey venue. The game had just finished with a convincing victory for team Canada, and there were fans pouring out of the stadium onto the streets celebrating raucously. Lesson 2: Canadians love to win at ice hockey.
As we pulled out of downtown Vancouver and headed north over the Lionsgate Bridge you could see the lights of Cypress Mountain twinkling in the distance. Cypress Mountain hosted the Freestyle (moguls and aerials), Ski and Boarder Cross, Snowboard Parallel Slalom and Half-Pipe events. The media had a frenzy when there was an initial scarcity of snow at Cypress, branding the Vancouver Olympics a snow-disaster zone. This of course as any informed skier knows is pure twaddle – Whistler is the main Host Mountain for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games and is currently having one their best ever seasons for snow with an amazing 3-metre base.
The road up to Whistler (the Sea-to-Sky Highway) has been reformed, widened and straightened for the Games to such a degree that it has cut a full 30 minutes off journey times from downtown Vancouver to North America’s number 1 resort.
I arrived into Whistler quite late at night, but even at that late hour the place was buzzing with Olympicity! I was staying at one of Whistler’s newest properties – Evolution at Whistler Creekside, sharing a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom state-of-the-art condominium with a couple of industry colleagues from Winter Park.
Tomorrow: Winter Olympic Experience Day 2 : Snowshoeing, King of Norway & much, much more…