March 10, 2006 Features & Images » Feature Story

Scenes from the Games 

From colliding buses, empty seats, the log man, and O Solo Mio, Pique editor Bob Barnett observes lessons learned for Whistler from the 2006 Winter Olympics.

click to flip through (4) Italian fans cheer at the women's downhill in San Sicario.
  • Italian fans cheer at the women's downhill in San Sicario.

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And so did the drivers, which explains some of the confusion the first week.

There were bus drivers who knew the roads and villages in the mountains, and there were bus drivers from Montenegro in Italy to make a few bucks during the 17 days of the Games. There were drivers who follow their own paths, oblivious to the designated routes and stops, and drivers who could bring one of the monster buses around a 180-degree corner on the side of a mountain with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a cell phone to their ear.

The transportation system for the Torino Olympics was probably more complicated than it will be for the Vancouver Games, because of the number of mountain venues. But the scope and intricacies of any Olympic transportation system don’t really become apparent until you look at it in detail.

To start with, there were three types of buses: for spectators, for volunteers and for the media/Olympic family. In theory there was a sort of pre-Rosa Parks hierarchy, where spectators weren’t allowed on media or worker buses and members of the media weren’t allowed on worker buses, however workers could get on just about any bus they wanted. But when an event finished and there were thousands of people trying to get somewhere the rules fell by the wayside and just about any bus you could squeeze into would do.

And for each of the bus lines there was a corresponding entrance at each event venue. Nine mountain venues, multiplied by three entrances each, multiplied by buses coming from at least two directions, equals confusion or a long walk if your bus dropped you at the wrong entrance, even though you might have been at the right venue.

You needed to get on the right bus.

This detail is critical because the footprint for each venue was far bigger than one would assume. Each venue included a grandstand capable of holding 5,000-8,000 spectators; all manner of tents to serve those spectators, the media, officials and workers; three entrance points with security; and room for dozens of buses to load and unload all those people.

For 2010, VANOC is currently planning on utilizing 900 buses a day to move people to and from Whistler and the Lower Mainland. The bus system will not be augmented by trains, as the Torino system was.

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