Eighty countries will converge in Vancouver and neighboring Whistler in 2010 to show off the latest moves in skiing, ice hockey, skating and sliding.
Imagine you and your family watching the best freestyle skiers in the world. A contestant speeds down a steep ramp, launching like a bird into the sky, but this human bird flips while spinning, landing right-side-up, back on the skis. The Olympics sure have come a long way from Athens, and in the winter of 2010, Vancouver, Canada will be the place to see these types of freestyle aerials and other amazing evolutions in the world of winter sports for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Feb. 12 to 28, 2010 are the magic dates, and Vancouver’s abuzz with preparation.
Eighty countries will converge in Vancouver and neighboring Whistler for the Winter Olympics. Vancouver will host the opening and closing ceremonies and most events considered ice sports, like ice hockey, figure skating and speed skating. Snowboarding and freestyle skiing competitions will be held at nearby Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver. Whistler, just 75 miles north of Vancouver, will host most Nordic events like downhill and slalom skiing, biathlon and cross-country skiing, along with sliding events such as the bobsleigh and luge.
Tickets for all Olympic events will go on sale in October 2008, with prices ranging from C$1,100 to score a seat at the opening ceremony, to just C$25 for a frigid spot on the sidelines at the biathon (a sport that combines the disciplines of cross-country skiing and riflery). The 250,000 tickets for the 2010 Paralympics, which takes place March 12 to 21, will go on sale in 2009. Canadian residents can purchase tickets at the Vancouver Organizing Committee’s official Web site; nonresidents must purchase theirs through an authorized sales agent—for those in the United States, this agent is Jet Set Sports.
New to the Winter Olympics in 2010 will be an exciting sport called “Ski Cross,” or “skier-X.” The sport, considered a subset of freestyle skiing, times skiers as they tackle a steep and winding course of both natural and man-made obstacles like jumps, rollers and banks. The debut of the sport in the Olympics will be at Cypress Mountain. Other Vancouver sites hosting the Winter Olympics are spread throughout the city in a variety of facilities. Ice hockey, for example, will be played at the current home of the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks in downtown and at a rink at the University of British Columbia on the west side, while the brand new sports theater will host speed skating, across the river from Vancouver International Airport.
Even non-Olympic visitors to Vancouver will get to experience (for better or worse) the effects on the city’s infrastructure of the tremendous preparation necessary for the Games. Travelers planning trips prior to 2010 should be prepared for construction-related delays and inconveniences, but the boom will also bring its share of upgraded amenities, starting for those who touch down at Vancouver International Airport: A new rapid transit route, Canada Line, will whisk visitors from tarmac to downtown Waterfront Station in about 25 minutes, and is expected to be complete by November 2009. Those driving will be able to take the upgraded scenic Sea-to-Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler, a massive project slated for completion in late 2009. In town, several new hotels will be opening their doors in advance of the crowds, including the Loden Vancouver—which opened on Oct. 18—and an outpost of the luxury chain Shangri-La (opening January 2009).
One cool detail to keep an eye out for is the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games emblem. For centuries, the native Inuit people of Canada’s Arctic have stacked rock formations, called “Inukshuks,” creating guideposts to direct travelers amidst the vast horizons of the north. The symbol evolved to become one of hope, cooperation and friendship.
[Read Travel Planning for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games for information about buying tickets and traveling to the Games.]
Additional reporting provided by A.E. Smith.