Vancouver in two minds about Winter Games

Mon Feb 1, 2010 9:28pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Vancouver, host of this month's Winter Olympics, prides itself on being one of the world's most liveable cities but residents seem unsure at times whether they really want the world on their doorstep.

Though the Olympic buzz is building up for the February 12 start of the Games, surveys have shown that doubts about the wisdom of hosting the Olympics have been higher in Vancouver, on Canada's Pacific coast, than in the rest of the country.

The Games have been at the center of sometimes bitter political debates over issues such as free speech and spending public money on entertainment rather than social needs.

"Vancouver has a tendency to be passionate on both sides of any issue... That's just the nature of Vancouver and probably has as much to do with the make-up of our culture and city as anything," said Arthur Griffiths, one of a group of businessmen who first proposed hosting the 2010 Games.

Vancouver and its suburbs have the venues for ice hockey, curling, skating, freestyle and snowboard events, along with the opening and closing ceremonies. Alpine and Nordic skiing events, as well as bobsleigh, luge and skeleton, will be in the resort town of Whistler, some 125 km away.

Archaeologists say people have lived in the area since 500 BC but Vancouver itself is a relatively young city. It was incorporated in 1886 as the western end of the Canadian Pacific Railway and remains a key seaport link with Asia.

Some 2.1 million people live in the metropolitan Vancouver area, making it the third most populous urban area in Canada and the largest community to host a Winter Games.

Much of the population growth has come in the last 30 years as Vancouver has won acclaim in international surveys as one of the world's most liveable cities. The beauty of the natural surroundings, with both ocean and mountains, is part of the reason.   Continued...

<p>The Olympic rings are framed by the Canadian flag in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia January 14, 2010. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>