VANOC saw trouble coming

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics admitted Saturday they expected transportation troubles at the start of the Games.

“We knew from the very beginning that challenges typically show up in the last three days before the Games open and the first three days after opening, especially with the transportation system,” said deputy VANOC CEO Dave Cobb.

“Some of our buses arrived in less-than-ideal condition. That was one of our challenges.”

VANOC replaced, at its own cost, 100 public transit buses that were supplied to contractor Edison Transportation by Shuttle Bus Leasing of Riverside, Calif. Buses carrying Canadian freestyle skiers to Cypress Mountain for training broke down on two occasions before the Games.

VANOC budgeted $52.3 million for buses and hired Orlando, Fla.-based Gameday Management Group. The original deadline for the Vancouver 2010 transportation plan was the end of 2007, but planning continued through 2009.

Cobb said 1.5 million passenger trips were recorded on public transit in Vancouver on Feb. 15, more than double an average day. The system, which includes rapid transit and commuter ferries, is carrying spectators to events in the city and 150,000 revellers a day to downtown celebrations and concerts.

“A very positive surprise was to see many people are in the streets wearing Canada shirts,” said Gilbert Felli, the International Olympic Committee’s executive director of Games operations. “The enthusiasm of the people was quite amazing.”

Felli said VANOC is delivering the Games as promised and addressing problems within 24 hours.

“We still have got eight days to go, but there is no reason to believe the next eight days will not operate as smoothly as we’ve done so far,” Felli said.

The 21st Winter Games began with the tragic Feb. 12 death of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. The RCMP were embarrassed by two security breaches at B.C. Place Stadium, while one of their own is charged with shoplifting at a suburban store.

Three people were charged after a near-riot in an anti-Olympics protest. Spring-like rainstorms washed more snow from the Cypress Mountain slopes, forcing postponements and cancellation of 28,000 general admission tickets. An Olympia ice-cleaning vehicle at the Richmond Olympic Oval broke down during a speed skating session and was replaced by a model from competitor Zamboni. Plexiglass panels have replaced some of the chain-link fencing surrounding the outdoor Olympic cauldron after public complaints.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

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