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This year VANOC decided to install a temporary chairlift to be taken down after the Games. Meanwhile, the provincial and federal governments are nearing completion on a new 19km rapid- transit line between downtown Vancouver and Richmond, with a much- needed link to Vancouver International Airport. It is scheduled to open in November. TransLink, the public transportation provider, will also take delivery of new hybrid- engine, low- emission buses. The province invested $ 1 billion in upgrading the Sea-to- Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler. This penultimate year will see a number of changes. VANOC will unveil the design of its bronze, silver and gold medals – the IOC's executive board viewed the prototypes in December. VANOC will begin fitting out the villages and venues with Olympic overlay starting in December. Many of the 25,000 volunteers needed for the Games will begin training this summer, with a small core of key volunteers getting briefed this spring. On 30 October, Vancouver's torch will be lit in Olympia, Greece and begin a 106- day, 45,000km journey across Canada. The scope and size of the relay, involving 12,000 torchbearers, will make it the longest in- country relay in Olympic history. Furlong says it has not been easy for VANOC but the effort has paid off handsomely so far. " People are paying attention to how we've done it. We get inundated with requests from others who want to see how we've done it. It is good to see that," he says. ¦ 36OLYMPIC REVIEW VANCOUVER 2010 Vancouver is on Canada's west coast and is the country's third- largest city. Sandwiched between the emerald waters of the Pacific and Coast Mountains, it has an iconic appeal for tourists who use it as a recreational gateway to the rest of the country. All of the ice events with the exception of bobsled, luge and skeleton are being held in the city proper, with the exception of the long- track speed- skating oval, which is in nearby Richmond. All of the snow events, with the exception of snowboard and freestyle skiing, are in or near the world- renowned mountain resort of Whistler, 115 kilometres up the Sea to Sky highway. The bobsled, luge and skeleton track is in Whistler, and freestyle skiing and snowboard are on Cypress Mountain, overlooking Vancouver. Figure skating and short- track speed skating take place at the refurbished Coliseum in Hastings Park on Vancouver's east side. Ice hockey will be held in the downtown home of the Vancouver Canucks, the city's National Hockey League franchise, as well as at a new three- rink facility at the University of British Columbia. Curling will be in a new community facility adjacent to stunning Queen Elizabeth Park, whose expansive views take in the surrounding mountains and sea. The men's and women's Alpine events are on Whistler Blackcomb, site of previous World Cup events. The new bobsleigh, skeleton and luge track built into the side of the mountain next to Fitzsimmons Creek was homologated early in 2008. Tests on the steep and technically difficult track have already generated some of the fastest speeds in each of the sports. All of the cross- country events, including biathlon, Nordic Combined, ski jumping and cross-country skiing, will be held in the undeveloped Callaghan Valley in a new facility called Whistler Olympic Park. But it is perhaps the new long- track speed skating oval in nearby Richmond that is the most elaborate of the venues. Built along the Fraser River, the heron wing- shaped oval is a fusion of modern design incorporating historic materials. The 15 glue- laminated wood beams that hold up the massive roof are made from pine trees killed by an insect that is laying waste to much of the province's interior forests. The building also incorporates elements never before used in covered ovals. Because it is at sea level, the track won't be as fast as record- makers in the higher altitude cities of Calgary and Salt Lake City. To compensate, organisers installed technology allowing it to vary icing conditions on different parts. " I talk to the athletes quite a bit about how important ice is. The Canadians love the ice here. They've been on it quite a bit and participated in a lot of the adjustments that are being made," says Cathy Priestner, VANOC's Executive Vice- President of sport and a former silver medalist in the 500m speed skating event. Many of the new facilities were built to either gold or silver LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. In a country where the environment is part of its unique signature, from its vast forests to its mountains to its flowing rivers, VANOC sought to minimise the impact of construction and create green opportunities for those facilities it did have to build. THE LOWDOWN: VENUES " IF ONE OF THE AIMS OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES IS NOT TO BUILD WHAT IOC PRESIDENT JACQUES ROGGE CALLS " WHITE ELEPHANTS" THEN THE VANOC VENUES FIT THE BILL. FURLONG SAYS THAT VANOC NEVER CONSIDERED CONSTRUCTING VENUES THAT DON'T HAVE A USEFUL POST- GAMES LIFE" Below The striking new speed skating oval in Richmond

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