Olympic goals for 2008

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics finished 2007 with a flurry of announcements and good-news headlines. And VANOC deserves hearty congratulations for many of its accomplishments.

But VANOC is also managing information and the 2010 Olympic story that is being told, at the same time it is guarding details that would help the people of British Columbia prepare for the Olympics. A brief review.

The 2010 mascots were introduced in late November and have to be considered an unqualified success. Miga, Quatchi and Sumi got plenty of media attention — some positive, some negative but as long as their names were spelled correctly….

Much more important than the media and its limited attention span was the fact the mascots were a hit with children. It was no coincidence the trio was introduced just before Christmas, and retailers and taxpayers should be thankful for the gift. VANOC is counting on $46 million in revenue from the characters.

When the second, online phase of the mascots is introduced in 2008 look for further development of the Quatchi character. He dreams of becoming a world-famous goalie, which also happens to be the position played by the Vancouver Canucks’ most recognizable player, Roberto Luongo — who, coincidently, is the only Canuck likely to be a member of Canada’s 2010 Olympic hockey team.

The programming for the 2008 Cultural Olympiad was announced a few days after the mascots were introduced: 300 performances in partnership with 60 arts and cultural organizations, including the Whistler Arts Council. Who could say anything negative about support for the arts and culture?

In mid-December the first event at Whistler Olympic Park, as the Nordic centre is now called, took place. The Coast Cup cross-country race was a low-key event but it provided another photo opportunity for VANOC.

That was followed by the first clandestine run down the sliding track by Pierre Lueders and Justin Kripps. The photos released by VANOC depicted another triumph for the organizing committee.

Early in the new year the test events in Whistler ramp up, providing more success stories, including the first leap off the ski jumps in the next week or so.

VANOC has been praised — in this space and in more famous publications including the Globe and Mail and Vancouver Sun — for its smooth, controversy-free operations, including getting most of the Olympic venues done early. In the case of the three Whistler venues and the Cypress venues, they have been completed a full two years before the Olympics. It is a significant accomplishment, which seems all the more impressive when measured against the venue construction of the last two Olympics, in Torino and Athens.


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