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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Life during 2010 Games will be business as unusual, say Vancouver organizers

Stephanie Levitz, THE CANADIAN PRESS
WHISTLER, B.C. - Life during the 2010 Games won't quite be business as usual for local residents of host cities, say Vancouver's Olympic organizers.

From road closures to parking restrictions to security cordons, people living around venues will have to modify their daily lives, but organizers promise they'll at least still be able to go out and buy a carton of milk.

How they'll get there, how late the store will be open and whether they'll have to walk around a security cordon, is anybody's guess for now.

Residents around Olympic venue sites are learning for the first time a little bit more about what impact the 2010 Games will have on their day-to-day lives.

A series of information sessions being held by Olympic organizers began Tuesday night in Whistler, B.C., and are expected to continue Wednesday with an event near the speed skating oval in Richmond, B.C.

More than 200 people packed the Whistler session to learn more about how the Games will affect the community.

The mountain resort will be home to all the Nordic events for the 2010 Winter Games.

There will be no public parking in Whistler Village during the Games and access to venue sites will be restricted to people with tickets or accreditation from Olympic officials.

People with tickets to events will be also given access to public transit, but details around that program have not been revealed.

BC Transit recently issued a call for proposals from transit management companies to oversee transportation requirements during the Games in the Sea-to-Sky corridor of B.C., which encompasses Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.

According to the request for proposals, a special transit plan will be in place for the Games, which will involve up to 75 buses plus six mini-buses.

That's in addition to extra buses being added to the existing fleets that serve Whistler and the other cities.

Getting around will also be made more difficult by the security requirements of the Games, being co-ordinated by the RCMP along with local police forces and the military.

Though barricades will not be placed around public areas, further details on how security will affect road closures or the areas around venues won't be finalized for some time.

But Cpl. Manon Chouinard of the Integrated Security Unit told the session that as soon as there was information available that would affect the daily lives of residents, they'll know.

"(Planners) are not leaving one stone unturned in order to be familiar and know what is around those venues and how we can minimize the impact," she said.

"That is one of the No.1 priorities."

When it comes to policing, response times will be about the same, Chouinard said, but extra officers will be added to areas like traffic security to help keep the roads moving in case of an accident.

Police officers throughout B.C. will also be pulled from non-security related obligations where possible, like testifying at trials.

The session was the first of 10 organizers are holding over the summer to give people living near venues a snapshot of how their daily lives will look during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Tuesday night's presentation was good on concept but short on details that many Whistler residents crave, said local businessman John Morrow.

Morrow said he's attended a number of sessions now with both Olympic organizers and local business groups and is still confused on how exactly the daily grind of the city will be affected.

Business owners, especially those not working in services directly connected to the Games, need more details now, Morrow said.

"They are talking about delivering but they haven't delivered yet," he said.

"Until someone can actually say 'this is what you are going to be given to work with,' we can't actually formulate our own business plan."

© The Canadian Press, 2008

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