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OLYMPIC REVIEW43 INTERVIEW With less than a year to go how are the preparations progressing for the Games? The Vancouver 2010 Organising Committee and its partners have been working hard since the city's election in July 2003 to ensure that everyone will have a great Olympic experience in February 2010. The competition venues are ready and athletes are already training and competing on many of them. VANOC has also spent a lot of time ensuring that its operational planning is as good as it can be and from what we have seen from our regular visits with the Coordination Commission, Vancouver 2010 is on track to deliver fantastic Games next year. How do you assess the facilities that will be available to the athletes? I think that I can answer this question in two words – world class! The competition venues have been designed, built or renovated to ensure that the fields of play and conditions for the athletes and spectators will be of the highest standard. The athletes' Villages, in both Vancouver and Whistler, are exceptional properties, where the athletes will be delighted to rest and play. However, the true star of the show is without a doubt the natural beauty within which many of the venues are set and which will provide a masterpiece backdrop for the athletes' performances. What are the biggest challenges the organisers face? With a little less than a year to go until the Games take place, Vancouver 2010 and its partners' biggest challenge will undoubtedly be integrating all their planning and turning that into an operational success. This is the primary test that every host city faces because the seven years of preparations mean nothing unless the 16 days of competition are a success, but I am confident that VANOC and its partners will deliver. How important is the support of the local stakeholders to the organisation of the Games? It's extremely important. We realise at the IOC that putting on the Games can't be done without the support of your friends and thankfully, in Canada, we have some very good friends. Within government at the federal, provincial and city levels; with the Four Host First Nations; and with all our partners and other stakeholders, we benefit from some very solid relationships. Without this great support, the Games would simply not be possible. How are the ticket sales progressing? Ticket sales have been a great success story of these Games, with the first phase of ticket sales seeing incredible demand – about 120 of 170 events went to lottery – and all the phase one tickets found a fan. Internationally as well, VANOC is seeing strong demand which shows that the excitement from the Games is not just limited to Canada. What events are you particularly looking forward to following at the Games? I think that the Opening Ceremony will be a personal highlight for me because when all the athletes finally march into the stadium, it will mean the start of the Games and the successful culmination of seven years hard work. Also, as President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, I'm obviously greatly anticipating both the men's and women's ice hockey tournaments, but I'll be trying to get to as many venues as possible in order to soak up the atmosphere. The snowboard competition was extremely popular in Turin. Which events in Vancouver do you expect will most capture the public's imagination? That's a difficult question to answer and I would not want to single out one discipline but personally, I'm looking forward to seeing ski cross with its exciting and dynamic format, which will undoubtedly turn more than a few heads. Although, with a public as knowledgeable about winter sports as the Canadians, I'm sure that each sport will have the opportunity to shine. What feedback are you getting from the people of Vancouver? Every time I go to Vancouver and to Canada, you can feel that the excitement is building and that the people of British Columbia and Canada are really looking forward to welcoming the world to their home next year. Of course, they are also very excited about the fact that they'll be able to see the world's best winter sports athletes compete in their own country! ¦ LeftThe natural beauty within which the venues are set will be the true star of the Games, says René Fasel