Whistler

Vancouver celebrates 10 years as an official Olympic city

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Ten years ago, the Vancouver Olympics opened with a succession of spectacular sights and Canadian heroes.

While most Winter Olympic ceremonies are held in the crisp air with the threat of snow — or worse, freezing rain — the Vancouver Games opened indoors in BC Place. 

The ceremony’s producers had to deal with the aftermath of a tragic incident earlier in the day. Nodar Kumaritashvili, a luge slider from Georgia, died in a training accident in Whistler, prompting a scramble to acknowledge Kumaritashvili’s death while still giving a fitting welcome to athletes and supporters who had been waiting for this moment for so many years.

The first tricky part went without a hitch, with snowboarder Johnny Lyall flying through the Olympic rings and a set of explosions. The lighting of the cauldron did not go as smoothly, with one of the four arms not rising up and leaving speedskater Catriona Le May Doan stranded with a torch. Le May Doan would end up getting another chance in the closing ceremony.

Then the Games headed toward the slopes, sliding track and arenas.

Ten years later, here’s how the Olympic venues are in use:

BC Place (ceremonies): The home of the CFL’s BC Lions and Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps.

Rogers Arena (ice hockey): Known as Canada Hockey Place during the Games for sponsorship reasons, the arena is the home of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and the National Lacrosse League’s Vancouver Warriors, along with plenty of concerts and UFC events.

Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre (ice hockey): The University of British Columbia’s home hockey arena.

Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Centre (curling): Converted into a community recreational facility called Hillcrest Centre.

Richmond Olympic Oval (speedskating): Also converted into a recreational facility but also used to host various spectator events, including hockey, basketball, fencing, volleyball, and indoor track and field.

Pacific Coliseum (figure skating, short-track speedskating): The former home of the Vancouver Canucks hosts a variety of events, including Olympic sports events such as the recent 2020 Olympic volleyball qualifiers.

Cypress Mountain (snowboarding, freestyle skiing): Plagued by warm weather that forced organizers to bring in snow by truck, the ski resort has a healthy 119-inch base as of Feb. 12.

Whistler Creekside (Alpine skiing): One of the top ski resorts in the world continues to host snowboard and Alpine competitions, often well into April.

Whistler Sliding Centre (bobsled, skeleton and luge): The track is a frequent stop on World Cup circuits and hosted the 2019 bobsled and skeleton world championships.

Whistler Olympic Park (Nordic events and biathlon): Open for cross-country skiing and offering biathlon lessons. The World Cup cross-country circuit stopped here in January. The ski jumping World Cup tends not to come to North America, but the ski jumping facility still hosts competitions such as last year’s North American championships, and Canadian jumpers train here as well as in fellow Olympic site Calgary.

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Tucker West wins again after strange luge World Cup week

AP
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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Those competing in World Cup luge races Saturday night got only one run instead of the customary two, because delays in getting the sleds to the track forced some schedule changes.

Tucker West of the U.S. apparently didn’t mind.

West won the men’s World Cup race for the second straight weekend, finishing in 50.109 seconds for his third career victory on the circuit. Wolfgang Kindl of Austria was second in 50.153 seconds, and Andi Langenhan of Germany was third in 50.243 seconds.

“He is on top of the world,” USA Luge women’s racer Summer Britcher said of West, as he draped himself in an American flag on the podium after the race. “You can see it.”

West’s win capped a strange World Cup week in Whistler, where most athletes waited around all week and were unable to train while their sleds were stuck in transit because of a snowstorm.

“This was a crazy week,” West said.

West didn’t get on the Whistler ice for practice until Saturday. John Fennell didn’t even get that.

Fennell, like all other athletes who rely on Nations Cup qualifying races to get a chance at being in the World Cup field, couldn’t get on the track at the Whistler Sliding Center this week. Shipping problems meant most competitors planning to race in Whistler didn’t have their sleds until Friday night, leading to a very condensed World Cup schedule — with all training and races being squeezed into Saturday.

To make that happen, Nations Cup runs were canceled.

That meant a lot of sliders were in Whistler this week for nothing.

“I feel terrible for all of the athletes who have traveled to Whistler who will receive no time on the ice and will only be allowed to be spectators,” USA Luge veteran Chris Mazdzer said.

Mazdzer didn’t like the move by International Luge Federation officials, and teammate Fennell was maybe the biggest casuality. Fennell used to race for Canada, knows the Whistler track well and this weekend was a legitimate chance for him to collect some critical World Cup points that could have gotten his first year with the Americans rolling.

Instead, he got nothing. No points, and now probably no chance of qualifying for the world championships later this season.

“I’m feeling angry, frustrated, upset,” Fennell said. “I don’t think it’s the right decision. Zero World Cup points is huge for me.”

Fennell had his sled with him in Whistler all week, while many sliders didn’t get theirs until Friday night — a truck involved in the shipping of sleds from last weekend’s World Cup in Lake Placid, New York got stuck in a snowstorm and it took several days to get the sleds rerouted and on the move again. But since so many sliders did not have equipment, Fennell and others who had their sleds were told to keep them off the ice.

“This was my best chance to do well this season and show coaches and the organization what I’m capable of, and it was a waste of time, effort and money,” Fennell said. “I’m walking away empty-handed.”

Canada’s Alex Gough walked away in a very different mood. Gough won the women’s race Saturday night on her home track, finishing the single-heat competition in 38.796 seconds. Germans took second and third, with Natalie Geisenberger finishing in 38.848 and Tatjana Huefner in 38.850.

For the U.S., Emily Sweeney was fourth, Erin Hamlin sixth and Britcher took seventh.

“This was a very interesting week,” Sweeney said.

In doubles, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany prevailed in 38.542 seconds. Fellow Germans Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were second in 38.570, and Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria were third in 38.642.

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