U.S. government prepares for Americans in Whistler 

Temporary outpost to be set up during Games for citizens and delegates

The Americans are coming. And the U.S. government wants to be here when they arrive.

The United States will open a temporary consulate in Whistler for the 2010 Winter Olympics to assist citizens during the international event.

The move is sparked by the acknowledgement that potentially thousands of Americans could be in the resort municipality in February, according to Charles Smith, public affairs officer with the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver.

"There are like four or five million people in the Interstate-5 corridor between the border and Portland who could conceivably get in their cars and come up for the day," said Smith.

"Not everyone who comes will be there for the Games. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Games and lots of people who aren't sports nuts will want to be in on the glamour and excitement."

As to how many Americans will be in Vancouver and Whistler this February, that number is still anyone's guess.

"Nobody knows for sure," said Smith. "We wish we knew."

The Whistler outpost will be quite a bit smaller than the consulate in Vancouver and Smith said there will be about 12 to 24 staff on hand to assist American citizens and delegates. The consulate will not be issuing visas during the Games.

The temporary office will be set up just before the Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 12 and it will be disbanded shortly after they wrap up on Feb. 28, said Smith.

This is not the first time the U.S. government has created a temporary outpost in an Olympic host municipality. The Americans also set up a consulate in Torino, Italy, during the 2006 Winter Olympics.

"Wherever the sports are, our citizens will be following," said Smith. "The primary reason for increasing our staff is to look after their well being. We are there to provide assistance for Americans who fall into whatever kind of trouble."

The temporary consulate will play host to U.S. delegates in Whistler for the Games.

Smith couldn't say exactly who would be part of that entourage, but he said usually the U.S. Olympic delegation is composed of high level federal government officials as well as former American Olympians.

He doesn't know at this point if President Barack Obama will attend.

American athletes have historically played a large role in past Winter Olympic events. In 2006, the U.S. Olympic team sent 221 athletes to the Winter Games in Torino and took home the second highest number of medals, after Germany, with nine gold, nine silver and nine bronze.

"I have been to Whistler only once, but I will tell you that Americans are going to be charmed by Whistler," said Smith.

"I think it is a fantastic opportunity for B.C. in general to showcase itself, and Whistler especially is going to be the jewel in the crown. You guys are going to benefit in the short term and long term."

There will also be a USA House in Whistler during the Games to host the U.S. Olympic Committee and other dignitaries, as well as to serve as a base camp for sponsors doing day trips to Whistler. The house will be located in a private log home on Alta Lake Road.




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