Warm weather welcomes world

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VANCOUVER -- "Welcome to Vancouver. The temperature is plus 8 ..."

Try to imagine a visitor from some far corner of the world landing here Monday with his parka in the overhead bin, looking out the airplane window at green grass between the runways.

"It's a perfect day in Vancouver. Damn!" said a local scribe of the big arrival day for the XXI Olympic Winter Games.

"Welcome to the Spring Olympics," Premier Gordon Campbell said at a reception for visiting dignitaries.

Hundreds of people were playing golf here yesterday. An ice sculpture wouldn't have made it past noon.

Arriving media types took in the lush landscape on the ride from the airport to the main press centre, which is the iconic Canada Place location overlooking Coal Harbour and Stanley Park.

The press centre itself is state of the art -- with a view.

You couldn't dream up a more easy-on-the-eyes location for the media to pen prose -- which usually begins with a first impressions column upon arrival.

The sun was out yesterday, another reminder of the warmest January and early February on record here.

There's no snow anywhere other than the patch of it at the Cypressfreestyle and snowboard course.

"There is a rumour the first snowboard event has been cancelled," said Christian Hrab at a Canadian snowboard press conference Monday afternoon.

"It's a false rumour. All systems are go. It's going to be fine. We could do it today on this beautiful Vancouver day. It's a testimonial to marvelous human ingenuity. We feel very safe with VANOC in charge," Hrab added, brushing away as meaningless the fact there have been two days of training runs cancelled and only three days left for the rest of them at the venue where helicopters have hauled in snow from the B.C. Interior.

"There's no snow outside the fields of play, but the fields of play are a glistening paradise where the snow is," Hrab said.

Everyone coming here expecting to see snow without taking the trip up to Whistler, is informed by the locals to be careful what they wish for.

The truth is that the worst thing that could happen to the Winter Olympics in the Great White North is for it to actually snow in the host city.

It would absolutely cripple the transportation system, which is one area that, according to a couple of bus drivers I spoke to, is a little bit iffy with buses from the U.S. and drivers from all over Canada still learning their routes.

But to find flaws, you first have to take your eyes away from the sun reflecting off the water, where the five Olympic rings will light up the night and become the most photographed sight of these Games.

If this was your arrival day, like it was for such a high percentage of the world, you had to be struck by the sheer beauty of the city which visitors don't always see when it's cloud-covered, raining and generally depressing.

Oh, there are media types from around the world who arrived here earlier and have found homeless people to write about and there will be other flaws found soon enough.

But for first impressions ...

When you've covered 16 Olympics, you're kind of trained at finding flaws in very short order. But chef de mission Natalie Lambert says I'm not likely to find any.

Certainly not at the athlete's village.

"All the athletes who have been to previous Olympics are telling us this is the best one ever," she said.

"From the cafeteria to the fitness centre -- and especially the apartments.

"The view of the city is stupendous and magnificent and the treatment from the volunteers is really amazing. And it's not just the Canadians. Everybody from the other countries is telling us the same thing.

"Canada has a wonderful reputation for organizing major sports events and I can tell you right now Canada is going to live up to that reputation."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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