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Vancouver sees room to improve on Beijing for 2010

Vancouver sees room to improve on Beijing for 2010

While praising China's performance as Olympic host, organizers of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver suggested Friday they can do better on three fronts _ festive atmosphere, public engagement and tolerance of protests.
"Protesting is common in Canada," said John Furlong, CEO of Vancouver's organizing committee. "It's embraced in our culture. It's part of our way of life."
China has arrested numerous demonstrators at sporadic human-rights and pro-Tibet protests during the games and, after announcing the creation of designated protest zones, has yet to confirm granting any permits to use them.
Furlong joined a chorus of visiting foreign dignitaries in lauding the Chinese for staging a logistically smooth and competitively spectacular Olympics _ complete with a costly, well-reviewed opening ceremony and sophisticated venues that have hosted an array of sporting feats.
"The delivery of the games has been quite awesome and quite humbling," Furlong told a news conference.
However, Furlong said "the door has been left open to us" to improve over Beijing in some areas _ namely cutting down on the number of empty seats in the venues, stirring up more enthusiasm among the fans in them, and encouraging more participation by local residents in Olympic-related festivities.
In both Vancouver and the ski resort of Whistler, organizers plan to establish "celebration zones" open to all.
"We have a real opportunity not just to celebrate, but to bring every citizen of the city into the games every night _ to give them a sense of ownership over the project," Furlong said. "This public engagement is going to be an important part of our story."
Furlong and his colleagues are placing particular emphasis on combatting the empty-seat phenomenon _ a problem which dampened the atmosphere at many venues during Turin's 2006 Winter Games and has resurfaced in Beijing.
"We're not going to assume that we can just do things the way they've been done before and expect our seats to be full," said Dave Cobb, an executive vice president of Vancouver's organizing committee. "It's a very complex challenge so the atmosphere is what the athletes and spectators deserve _ we're determined to improve it."
Changes envisioned for 2010 include pressuring the Olympics' dignitaries and corporate sponsors to request only tickets they will actually use and establishing an official ticket exchange program. This would reallocate unused tickets and _ it is hoped _ curtail the operations of scalpers and unauthorized ticket brokers.
Organizers also plan to establish flexible news media seating areas _ expanding them for major events such as the gold-medal hockey match, shrinking them for lower-profile events so more ordinary fans can attend.
"We will do everything we can to get more tickets in hands of public," Cobb said.
Throughout their preparations, the organizers have stressed the importance of fielding a successful Canadian team in 2010 to build local enthusiasm.
It has launched an unprecedented US$110 million program called Own The Podium, with the explicit goal of winning the medal race. More than 200 athletes who've been identified as medal prospects are receiving state-of-the art coaching, training and psychological help, as well as tips from a sports research program called Top Secret.
Here in Beijing, Canada's summer athletes seemed to present an awkward contrast when they went without a medal during the first week of the games. But they have stormed back since then, winning 16 medals by Friday, including three golds _ their best showing since Atlanta in 1996.
"They were criticized a bit at the beginning _ but they've made us all very proud," Furlong said. "They'll be going home as great heroes."


Updated : 2021-05-14 01:11 GMT+08:00