Vancouver’s Winter Olympics

by Valerie Summers

Lauded as one of the three most livable cities in the world, Vancouver, situated in Canada’s most western province of British Columbia, added another accolade when selected as the 2010 Winter Olympics host city.  February 12 marks the official one-year countdown to the start of next year’s Olympic Games with the Paralympics Winter Games following on March 12.  Athletes and spectators from around the world will gather in Vancouver  and the alpine resort of Whistler to celebrate a cavalcade of winter sporting excellence.

BC Place

BC Place

During the months preceding the games, Vancouver has planned more than 400 free and ticketed events to exciting and diverse cultural celebrations and sporting events. Kicking off the One-Year Countdown Celebration, multiple Grammy award winner Sarah McLachlan appears in concert joined by an all-star cast of Canadian talent on February 12 at the Queen  Elizabeth Theatre.  During the 2009 winter months, other featured performances will include Toronto’s Broken Social Scene and Calgary’s Tegan and Sara in a hot double bill.  One of the world’s most revered orchestras, the Academy  of St. Martin in the Fields will treat audiences to a program of Bach, Mozart and Walton for its Vancouver  debut at the Orpheum Theatre.  Ballet BC  will perform Carmen, the tragic love story of a fiery Gypsy temptress.  New Songs, New Voices features four nights of music served up by a dozen of the next great Canadian singer/songwriters at the Waterfront Theatre.  The diamond voice of Hawksley Workman and the gritty bass of Chad Van Gaalen will be heard at the Commodore Ballroom.  Somali born rapper K’naan opens for Toronto-born Esthero who collaborated on the now President Barak Obama-inspired Yes We Can song.   The eclectic list goes on and on with something to suit every taste and interest with much more to follow during the coming months.

The eighth annual Talking Stick Festival returns to celebrate traditional and contemporary Aboriginal performance and art.  The festival takes place in mid-February at locations around the city and features a fusion of music, dance, theatre, multimedia, performance art, visual art and storytelling.  Next year marks the first time in history that Indigenous people have been recognized as official partners in hosting the Olympic Games.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee has selected a contemporary interpretation of the inukshuk as the official emblem of the Games.  They are stone sculptures used by Canada’s Inuit people as directional landmarks across the north but have become adopted as a symbol of hope, friendship and hospitality throughout Canada.

Several world-class sporting events will take place where attendees may watch future Olympic hopefuls compete in the official venues. These include snowboarding, wheelchair curling championships and single distances speed skating.

During my visit in early January, I took an Aquabus tour past the under construction Athletes Village situated in a prime location overlooking what is known as False Creek, a definite misnomer since it is actually part of the Pacific Ocean. The village will be converted to already sold out condominiums at the conclusion of the games.  The newly refurbished Thunderbird Arena on the campus of the University of British Columbia will host men’s and women’s ice hockey events as well as men’s sledge hockey. The Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Centre, the venue for Olympic curling and Paralympic wheelchair curling was completed in December 2008.  The $82 million centre is a model of sustainable design which includes the use of rainwater to flush toilets.   After the Olympics, the venue will be converted to a multi-purpose community center and heat created during ice-making will be used to warm its swimming pool.

Centre for Performing Arts

Centre for Performing Arts

The $178-million Richmond Olympic Oval, the venue for Olympic speed skating events also opened last December. In keeping with sustainable design, this “green” structure features a wood wave roof made from pine beetle enhanced wood.  This venue will host 14 days of exciting competition and 12 medal events.  The Oval is offering public programs and drop-in skating through this year so anyone who is interested can have a taste of the excitement to come in February 2010. They may also test their athletic skills at Cypress Mountain, location of the Olympic mogul skiing, snowboarding, parallel giant slalom and other events, situated just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver.  The city is in the process of renovating or building a number of other key local venues for events including BC Place which will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as nightly medal presentations.

During my recent visit, I could feel the excitement in the air anticipating Vancouver’s place as a winter world stage in 2010.

Wedgewood Suite

Wedgewood Suite

However, while there, I enjoyed a very peaceful, relaxed and pampered experience during my stay at the elegant, multi-award winning Wedgewood Hotel situated in the city’s great shopping district.  Upon entering the lobby, I was immediately struck by feeling that I had been invited into the exquisitely furnished English living room of a private residence filled with art, antiques and crystal.   When shown to my luxurious suite with every amenity imaginable the feeling continued. A fit for a queen sunk-in soaker tub with Jacuzzi jets opening onto the regally decorated bedroom featuring a king sized bed awaited me. The attention to every detail was apparent and during my stay I also enjoyed a stunning view of the city from my spacious 10th floor balcony.

For the ultimate in feeling like a royal guest, one afternoon I slipped into a robe and slippers and headed down to the spa for 90 minutes of sheer pleasure.  In the candlelight setting, I experienced a Sea of Senses Facial consisting of cleansing and exfoliating by a master facialist using some of the finest skin therapies available.  My hands and feet also received special attention as my skin absorbed the precious healing treatments.

Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge

Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge

The Relais & Chateaux property also boasts the added attraction of the Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge which consistently receives awards as the Best Bar/Lounge, Best Hotel Dining and for Best Formal French Dining in the city.  I also found the lovely room with a natural fireplace an excellent choice for breakfast, tea and cocktails.  The setting was warm, inviting and beautifully decorated, following the theme of the hotel.  Each evening as I passed Bacchus, the room was filled with a sophisticated after work crowd there to unwind, chat and listen to lilting piano music.

Kudos to the Wedgewood management as good corporate citizens for their decision to act locally and sensibly for the global good in erasing their operation’s carbon footprint and doing their part to help restore the sea life, ocean health and wilderness beauty so valued by Canadian citizens and their discerning clientele.  General Manager, Philip Meyer commented “We hope our guests leave here with new ideas about aesthetics and fine cuisine and now environmentally responsible behavior as well.”

This winter I experienced the ultimate urban hideaway in one of the world’s most desirable cities.  Both the management of the unique Wedgewood Hotel and the people of Vancouver exhibit high regard for the beauty of their city and great respect for the planet.  In February of 2010, Vancouver’s extraordinary gifts of nature, its stunning architecture, its culture and the charm and courtesy of its inhabitants will be viewed as the world  watches the games of Winter Olympics where the best of the best compete.

For information:

Tourism British Columbia

Tourism Vancouver
Wedgewood Hotel & Spa
845 Hornby Street
Vancouver, BC   V6Z 1V1


Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, Tourism Vancouver
BC Place, Tourism Vancouver