Canadian digs announce presence of home team 

Slider the Moose and hockey nets add a decidedly Canadian flare to Whistler athletes’ village


Between "Slider the Moose," the hockey nets and their eight electric bikes, Team Canada is the talk of the town at the Whistler athletes' village.

Perched on the topmost ridge overlooking the rest of the village, a proud maple leaf outlined in bright red lights beside a blow-up arch, it's hard to miss the home team's haven in the mountains.

"I don't think the Canadians could be happier," said assistant chef de mission and former Olympian Steve Podborski. "We got a place we liked in a real quiet cul-de-sac with a view of the village. We've got the moose out there. We've got our hockey nets. It's great."

There is a prevailing sense of tranquility and quietness around the village; at least, it appeared that way on the eve of the Games.

Save for small groups of trim athletes jogging around the streets in their team uniforms, and the volunteers and police stationed at every corner, the village is a peaceful place.

One lone Olympian, Jason Myslicki, who is Canada's only athlete in Nordic Combined, was passing the time outside the Canadian digs with a hockey stick and ball. The rest of the athletes were nowhere to be seen, either training on site or resting in their homes.

"You can release everything when you're shooting a ball or a puck," said the 33-year-old Myslicki, who also competed in the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics.

He said Slider the Moose has become a huge hit, like his counterpart Swagger at the Vancouver athletes' village. Swagger reportedly has been the target of friendly pranks, including being moved from the Canadian turf by other teams.

There's little chance of that happening in Whistler though as a police officer stands guard at the top of the Canadian residences, a stone's throw from Slider.

"This village is awesome," said Myslicki. "It's perfect."

It's a far cry from the trailer where Podborski rested his head before competing in the 1980 Lake Placid Games, where he won bronze in the downhill.

That athletes' village was to become a medium security prison after those Games.

"We always joked about whether they should lock us in or lock us out," laughed Podborski, who is staying in the team residences in the athletes' village.

Other than the alpine and cross-country ski teams, who are staying elsewhere in Whistler, all the other Canadian athletes have now moved in and are getting settled.

Olympian Rick Say, who swam for Canada in the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Games, is one of two athlete services officers for the team. His goal is to make the athletes feel like this village is their home away from home.

"This one is by far top notch," he said, comparing the Whistler village to his past experiences.

"We're feeling like we've got everything under control... It's a good feeling."

Great to be the home team too, he added, with the volunteers and organizers wanting to talk to them and tell the Canadians that they're behind them.

"People are just so proud to be a part of this," said Say.

Elsewhere in the village flags from around the world hang in the windows of homes that will be lived in by Whistler locals when the residences are converted following the Games.

Some of those Whistler homeowners have given village organizers their family pictures to hang in their homes to let the athletes know who will be living there next.

To realize the legacy that this village will become after the Games gives Anna Fraser Sproule, who is one of the two mayors at the Whistler athletes' village, goosebumps.

"I know people whose pictures are in there and they were so excited to know that their unit... is a home for somebody else," said this local past Olympian.

"We want (the athletes) to feel like they have a second home."

On this day Fraser Sproule was part of the official team welcome ceremony for Kyrgyzstan. The country's chef de mission received a gift from the Vancouver organizing committee - a plaque with two salmon on it that represents a Squamish First Nations story of endurance. The delegation for Kyrgyzstan then told the story of their national hat, which represents the mountains and the rivers.

"It is what the Olympics are about," said Fraser Sproule. "It's real people and it is part of building those relationships."




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