Torino offers Olympic lessons for Whistler, Vancouver 

Italian venues excellent, athletes villages blah

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Whistler businessman and Tourism Whistler chair Rick Clare, who was part of a resort fact-finding mission to Turin, had much the same reaction as he couldn’t help but notice security helicopters flying over the opening ceremony.

"The helicopters flying overhead did take away from the ceremonies because you can’t help but look up when you hear them so it did detract from the magic of the moment," he said.

Clare was also disappointed to find significant numbers of empty seats at some events only to be told that the event was sold out and tickets were unavailable.

"We need to make sure that is not our experience," he said adding that he was overwhelmed by the friendliness of the Italian locals.

Priestner-Allinger said VANOC is already looking into how that happened and will be formulating a plan to avoid it in 2010.

"I think the spectators numbers at a venue do affect the athletes," she said.

"I think when the athletes walk into a venue they expect it to be full."

One of the greatest challenges Turin faces is transporting people from the city to the five mountain venues.

A snowstorm last week caused havoc and drew attention to the challenge in a big way. Meanwhile the Sea to Sky Highway was closed for eight hours due to a serious traffic accident in the same week. Both of these events could cause serious headaches in 2010.

Priestner-Allinger said officials are looking at their plans.

"(We are) looking at that and seeing if there are some ways of mitigating it… and that might come in the way of smaller vans and shuttles versus the larger buses, and fewer people driving," she said.

It’s unlikely that the Sea to Sky highway will offer all the same challenges because it is a better road.

"I was sitting on the shuttle bus there and as I looked out I couldn’t believe the Sea to Sky Highway was such a big issue as I travelled up these tiny winding roads," said Whistler Blackcomb communications manager Christina Moore.

"Transportation flow will certainly be a challenge and we will need to work on that. But it certainly won’t be any worse than it was in Italy."

Moore said attending the Games also brought home to her how crucial it will be to get the message out that Whistler Blackcomb will be open for business before during and after the Games. That’s not the case in Italy where resorts shut down altogether.

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