Preparing to Welcome the World: Countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympics

For us, one of the big attractions of moving to British Columbia was the opportunity to live in an Olympic City and attend the biggest sporting event and party on the planet. Sure enough, it has been fascinating to see the preparations unfold, hear conflicting views on the Games, and plan our own involvement. Now, with less than two months to Games-time, the excitement level is really ramping up.

From the day we moved here almost three years ago, hardly a week has gone by without a reference to the Olympics in the local media. When it’s happening right in our own backyards, there are just so many questions to be answered. How can I get involved? What if we don’t have enough snow? What if we have too much snow? How will we get to work with crowds of people using our roads and transit systems? Should schools be closed during the Olympics? How do I get Olympic tickets? Are any set aside for residents? … and the list goes on.

Although some people may be indifferent to having the Games here in their home town, most of the residents I’ve met fall into one of two camps. Either they are excited and pumped about the Olympics, or they are disgruntled and critical. Protests are ongoing about the amount of money being spent and disruptions to the City. And yes, there have been disruptions. When we arrived, Vancouver seemed like one huge construction project with Games preparations already in full swing. It’s been a long haul and some people are fed up and planning to leave town during the Games to avoid the hassles. Some enterprising residents recognize a good business opportunity and, while they soak up the sun in Hawaii or Palm Springs, will rent out their Vancouver-area homes for enough money to help fund their retirements.

My husband Jack and I fall into the other camp. Self-described “Olympic-junkies”, we are involved, excited and ready for the fun, viewing this as an amazing opportunity to do something we’ve never done before and may never have the chance to do again. We applied to purchase tickets over a year ago and were fortunate to get tickets to a small number of Olympic events including men’s and women’s hockey and the Paralympic sledge hockey gold medal game. After all, we are Canadian and hockey is almost a religion in this country.

In addition to attending events, we both applied to volunteer at the Olympics, and even auditioned to be in the opening and closing ceremonies. Jack was fortunate enough to land a highly coveted volunteer opportunity to participate in the ceremonies. He starts a heavy rehearsal schedule in early January and is sworn to secrecy on the nature of the proceedings.

I’m excited that I will volunteer in Surrey, close to where we live and work. Surrey, which is in Metro Vancouver, is also an Olympic venue city by virtue of its beautiful new Games Preparation Centre. Surrey is also hosting a huge winter celebration that is free to the public and features live Games broadcasts, skating, curling, art events and concerts featuring the likes of Sam Roberts, Randy Bachman, 54-40 and Blue Rodeo.

With less than two months to the opening ceremonies, it’s now a rare day there isn’t some reference to the Olympics on the front page of the paper, and several stories throughout. Each day I turn to the article about the journey of the Olympic torch across Canada. This iconic symbol of the Olympics started its Canadian journey in Victoria, British Columbia on October 30, 2009, and is crisscrossing the country on the longest national Olympic torch relay in history. For me it highlights the vastness of Canada and reminds me how proud I am of the diversity of geography and culture in this great country I call home. Incidentally, just a few days into the relay, the torch was carried by a snowshoer in Old Crow, Yukon!  (See photo, courtesy of

Whether you will be coming to Vancouver to attend in person, or watching on TV, it is going to be quite a party. I hope you enjoy it as much as we plan to.

For more information about the 2010 Winter Olympics,


About the author

Debbie McKeown