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A tale of two Olympics

We’re seeing the rise of two kinds of Olympic Games leading up to 2010. We saw them both in Whistler over the past weekend.

Last Friday we saw the Olympics being pushed by John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for 2010. Flanked by images of Ilanaaq, the ubiquitous smiling inukshuk, he delivered a lunchtime lecture to the annual general meeting of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. In it he outlined his vision for an Olympics that could make all participants better people, just by joining in.

The central theme of Furlong’s speech was giving, and how Vancouverites and Whistlerites can do that when the Games commence in 2010. He began his speech by telling a story of how, on a recent trip to Beijing, he and an associate found themselves lost and frustrated in the city’s mammoth airport, unable to find the driver that would take them to make a presentation to the International Olympic Committee.

Soon they encountered a “sharp-looking” young man who offered to take them into the city for $25. On the way they started talking about the Olympics and the young man gushed about how proud he was that the Games would be coming to town.

Eventually the driver discovered that he was chauffering the CEO of the Olympics in Vancouver. The young man, ecstatic at his fare, told Furlong that it would be a privilege for him to do anything to “make life better” for him when he inevitably returned for the Summer Games.

Furlong returned to his hotel room the next day to find a gift from the driver waiting for him. It came with a note from the driver saying, again, that it would be a privilege for him to make life better for Furlong when he returned to Beijing.

He told his audience, “If we could get that and multiply it by two million and have that impact, and have every citizen play that role for everybody that comes from around the world when the Games are in Vancouver, we will have done the job we set out to do.”

Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians, he said, feel the 2010 Games will be a resounding success. Seventy-two per cent feel it will touch the country in a positive way. Both of these are figures from an Ipsos-Reid survey whose results have yet to be released.

A very different Olympics was seen on Saturday night at the Whistler Public Library. Tucked into a small room was a screening of Five Ring Circus, a film that suggests at least one group of citizens isn’t ready to be quite as giving as Furlong hopes.

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