Postcard from Vancouver
Australia has already had two wins at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and the main events have not yet started.
Firstly the International Olympic Committee has agreed that the very large Boxing Kangaroo flag can be hung from a balcony at the Olympic village.
Ian Chesterman the chef de mission with the Australian team is delighted and said it is something that has become synonymous with Australians competing around the world.
Secondly a last-ditch appeal by the Australian Olympic Committee on behalf of the Australian women’s bobsleigh team of Cecelia McIntosh and her partner Astrid Loch-Wilkinson, has been successful.
The Irish team, which had feared the Australian appeal would cost them their place at the Games, will be allowed to remain in a compromise solution. The main goal of the Australian team is to perform better than the Irish team to prove they should have been included as qualifiers in the first place.
The TV coverage in Australia of the Winter Olympics will be sensational but as an Aussie visiting Canada I am sensing the reality is somewhat different.
The current major concern for organisers is protestors not terrorists. A group called the Olympic Resistance Network is planning to target the Opening Ceremony and other events focussing on poverty, global warming, capitalism and human rights.
They claim this will be the largest ever protest staged at any Olympics.
It is not the only problem facing the Vancouver organisers.
In contrast to the snow deluges being experienced in Washington DC and other cities on the US and Canadian east coast there is a lack of winter on the Canadian west coast. Cypress Mountain (Vancouver) where the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events are scheduled is dry and mild.
Outdoor skiing events are scheduled for an altitude of 1000 metres but the snow line this season has only reached down to the 1300 metre level. This could be the first Green Winter Olympics and perhaps the official drink should be a slushie.
With balmy weather continuing wood and straw are being used to bulk up ski runs and bulldozers, trucks and helicopters are hauling in tons of snow to salvage the events.
Any Aussies planning a visit will be overdressed if they bring winter gear and should expect to experience Spring weather amid a sea of dirt, gravel and dust.
Whistler the famous ski resort and focus of downhill skiing events has plenty of snow but is financially frozen by debt. Unless its owners can find a way to settle a $1.5 billion (US) debt it will face foreclosure on February 19 mid-way through the Olympics but events will go on.
The public transport system in Vancouver should be one of the features of the Olympics.
An additional $17 million dollars has been pumped in to provide enhanced services. Local bus operators however are angered that the contract for Olympic bus services has been issued to a US Florida company that has imported 55 percent of the Olympic bus fleet from the US.
The imports consist of older buses with US drivers from California, Alabama and Wisconsin who have no idea of the Vancouver road network. There is local doubt the buses are capable of negotiating the roads to Whistler.
The Olympic Village is up market with harbourside views but dozens of athletes including members of the US and Canadian teams are staying elsewhere. The main complaint is the Village being downtown is too noisy and too far from venues.
Over C$9 million has been invested in weather forecasting equipment but chief forecaster Chris Doyle says he cannot promise a reliable snow forecast for the Olympics.
There will be all the glitz, glamour, thrills and spills normally associated with Winter Olympics but I hope for Vancouver’s sake and all the Aussies who have travelled here that the weather gods are snow lovers otherwise Canada’s gold medal winter reputation may just melt away.
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