Vancouver Games go from teething problems to equivalent of toddler tantrums

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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VANCOUVER - Every Olympics has teething problems.
In the first few days, bus drivers brought in from out of town didn't know where they're going. Athletes settled into their new home and discovered it's too bright at night to sleep. Broadcasters got ornery when the Olympic rings weren't positioned perfectly for their beauty shots.
But Vancouver's Olympics are five days old and the perception is now that the problems are more akin to a toddler's tantrums: sometimes they come without warning, sometimes they can be avoided but either way they will ruin the entire party.
"As Vancouver faces up to Games that appear to have been cursed, there is one positive outcome for London. Many believed that London would be overshadowed hopelessly by the glitz of Beijing in 2008, but Vancouver may have provided a buffer of reality that will make whatever London does look like light relief compared with Canada's gloom," wrote Kevin Eason in the Times of London. London is the host city for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The list of challenges is piling up.
Almost 30,000 spectators have been turned away from Cypress Mountain because the standing room area has become waterlogged and unsafe.
An ice resurfacing machine twice broke down at the speedskating oval in Richmond, delaying competition in some events by over an hour.
Timers's errors threw off the results of Canadian biathlete Jean-Philippe LeGuellec and those of a Swedish biathlete medal contender in pursuit races in the Callaghan Valley on Tuesday.
Another British newspaper has groused Vancouver's Games might go down as the "worst" ever.
The retort by Games organizers, athletes and sports officials has been swift.
Which Games are you at, exactly?
"We are very fine here," said Gerhard Zimmerman of Germany, a technical delegate of the International Skating Union.
"We are in preparation with them (Vancouver organizers) since a couple of years, we have very experienced people here, they know what they are doing. We have no complaints, we are very, very satisfied."
Canadian Olympic Committee president Michael Chambers said Vancouver residents and Canadians in general have embraced the Olympics.
Critics in the British media "are not living the same Games I am living," he said.
Vancouver fans are waiting in lines for hours to try out the various attractions around town and queue in the thousands to catch a glimpse of the Olympic cauldron - excitement that even Vancouver organizers acknowledge they underestimated.
One measure of the comfort of Vancouver organizers and the International Olympic Committee with how things are going could be the fact that the scheduled daily meetings between them are only happening every two days.
"We continue to be impressed by the level of organization," said Mark Adams, the spokesperson for the IOC.
"It's been a very well organized Games, has been right from the seven years we've been working with VANOC. . .The key thing is (problems) are identified and dealt with, and we feel that's being done. We're very happy."
At Tuesday's meeting, IOC officials expressed delight at the atmosphere in the athletes' village, the fact that despite a postponement on the men's downhill the buses ran smoothly and that organizers seemed sensitive to athletes' concerns on Cypress Mountain and worked to get them fixed.
"It's a little bit like lost luggage," said Renee Smith-Valade, VANOC's chief spokesperson.
"It's not whether your luggage gets lost, it's how you deal with it. We are dealt the cards we are dealt with. We have done everything we could to put in place the very best plans."
The weather wild card is hurting though.
Downhill skier Britt Janyk, who grew up skiing in Whistler, said she understands how the weather delays could leave international television viewers with a negative image of the resort.
"I hope there isn't," she said. "When there is bad weather and holds and delays, it's quit easy to see the downside and look at it negatively.
"You can get weather anywhere. Whistler does have a history of having the fog that sits in the middle of the course. There is nothing we can do. I think when the races do go off it's going to be absolutely fantastic."
But the true pall that's been cast over these Games has nothing to do with weather, transportation or even the millions of details seemingly going askew one by one.
It's that amidst a celebration of life and human achievement, there was death.
The horrid crash on the luge track in the hours before the opening ceremony that claimed the life of Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili stunned the close-knit and disciplined Olympic organizing team.
It still reverberates.
"You work seven years, you are really prepared to have a great opening ceremony, everybody is happy, very excited to start. Then suddenly you have this terrible news," said Rene Fasel, the IOC member in charge of the Vancouver Games.
"For all of us, it was a huge shock. It's been very difficult to go into the celebration."


Organizations: International Olympic Committee, Times of London, International Skating Union

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, London, Cypress Mountain Beijing Canada Richmond Callaghan Valley Germany Whistler

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