February 9, 2006
Italians take liking to B.C.... and what's not to like about Kokanee and street hockey?
By BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun
TURIN -- Right, smack in the middle of all the ancient history in this bustling downtown, is a scene right out of the Canadian wilderness.
With the Olympic Games set to open tomorrow, one of the most popular spots in this city of 900,000 is a big log home called British Columbia-Canada Place.
Located at the Piazzaze Valdo Fusi, the home the local cabbies call "Casa Canada" has captured the interest of the country and is getting 1,000 visitors a day. Last Saturday and Sunday, about 3,000 visitors dropped in on both days to check out this monstrosity.
"People have just been thrilled," said Paul Welsh, manager of communications for B.C. Canada Place. "The people see this log home and they want to see what it is all about."
But it's not just the log home which is getting visitors -- it's the little piece of Canadiana that is just a stone's throw away from the famous shroud of Turin.
Not only are the multi-media facilities and pictures of British Columbia scenes to help attract people to the country in 2010, you can even sip on a cold Kokanee beer if you talk nicely enough to the organizers.
Of course, if your preference is a B.C. wine or some food, they might even pour you a glass and serve up a small snack.
"We want people to get a taste of what British Columbia is like," said Welsh.
Of course, nobody would get a taste of Canada if they didn't get a chance to play street hockey -- so everyday from 3-5 p.m. the gang puts up a couple of nets and has a little game of shinny.
The Italians, who have a limited number of hockey programs, have been showing up in droves to learn how to hold a hockey stick.
"They come by and they have fun," said Welsh. "We're going to be hosting some parties here and we'll be having events go on throughout the Olympics. We knew it was going to be popular, we didn't think we'd be averaging 1,000 people a day."
THE MEDAL PLAZA: Had a nice wakeup call on the bus ride over here: A tunnel the media bus normally takes was closed while the local police performed terrorist manoeuvres in case there's a problem on the weekend. That makes you feel comfortable. You won't find me battling for a ticket to the Opening Ceremonies ... The main media centre is built at the bottom of a shopping centre that used to be the Fiat factory. Located on the roof is a cobblestone track that used to be used for test drives. It's now mainly for guests of the nearby Le Meridien hotel to go for a run, walk or workout. There's also a large globe that is the Fiat boardroom and a helipad ... Anybody know a cure for jet-lag? I'm running out of the DVD movies my brother Brian lent me to watch during my trip here. There's no bloody way I'm going to watch When Harry Met Sally (Brian's favourite movie) a second time ... Can't go a day without a little NHL news: Former Leafs winger Owen Nolan is getting close to making his return to the NHL. Sources say his agent J.P. Barry is on the West Coast talking with the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames. The word is the Senators have a mild interest, but that could depend a lot on the price ... Gotta go. Have to file this before the wireless connection here takes its daily plunge.