This is Canada's night

Let's just hope it doesn't rain on our parade

By

VANCOUVER - Fifteen years and maybe 15 million crises later, John Furlong can’t wait to exhale.

He’s just not sure when.

This is his day. This is our night, Canada’s night. Finally, after all the talk, the rhetoric, the endless television commercials, the protests, the financial troubles, and the weather reports, and the non-stop buildup, we have an Olympic Games.

And let the show and the snow begin, at least one of which we’re not certain of.

“Inside, I’m dying to say I’m eurphoric, but I don’t want to say it,” said Furlong, the impressive CEO of the Vancouver Olympic Committee. He began this Olympic journey as a conversation some 15 years ago.

He wanted to bring the Olympics to Vancouver - the Summer Olympics. Instead, he ended up with the Winter Olympics and summery weather.

“We’ve climbed a lot of mountains, hit a lot of obstacles, met a lot of challenges... We had a vision,” said Furlong. “We wanted to do something to affect the whole country. We wanted to make a difference.”

Tonight it all begins.

Tonight the rest of Canada can sit back, enjoy, and marvel at the spectacle that is any Olympic Games.

Just not Furlong. Not yet. This is a Winter Olympics, unlike any before it. Really, it’s almost two Olympic Games in one. This is a tale of two cities, one of snow and one of rain, one outdoors in the mountains and one of indoors in the largest cosmopolitan city to house a Games, one in which there is built in atmosphere in Whistler and yet uncertainty in Vancouver.

An Olympics almost divided from the start, trying hard to be one: Just how this ends up will be impacted by just how the Olympic hockey tournament proceeds and whether the weather cooperates. The later remains a significant problem.

And that is out of the hands of the organizing committee, which has left almost no stone unturned in leading to this day. They can control buses and venues and what goes on in the Athlete’s Village: Weather, they can’t.

And a truth: In preparing for the Games, the Vancouver organizing committee studied 20 years of local weather reports in order to come up with every conceivable plan. And then January came, the warmest January in the history of the city.

“The weather has not been our friend,” said VANOC’s Cathy Priestner-Allinger. “It continues to challenge us.” Rarely has an Olympics began with the odd juxtaposition of excitement and contigency. Yesterday, it rained and was foggy at Cypress Mountain. “Visibility is an issue,” said Priestner-Allinger, “We’re keeping a close eye on all of this.”

The tension from the organizing committee is about pulling everything off correctly. They are described from the inside as perfectionists. They want to pull off “an extraordinary Games.” They can’t control what they can’t control.

“It’s the tension you feel before the big game,” said Furlong, his big Games beginning today at ski jump and tonight at what is already being described as a magical opening ceremony. “In the early days, you start off thinking like you know a whole lot and you end up realizing how little you know. But we’ve done everything we could have done.”

Every Olympics takes on its own personality, its own shape, its own feel. Some work. Some don’t.

The buildup rarely foreshadows the reality.

Beijing was supposed to be a disaster: It was anything but. Calgary had no shortage of scandals leading up to 1988: Then the city embraced the Games like few have before it or since. The pages begin to turn tonight: The stories about to be unfold.

Finally, let the Games begin.


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