Vancouver prepares for 2010 Olympics, this seasons events


VANCOUVER -- This city has long been associated with winter sports. But youll be hearing even more about that in the coming years, since the city won its bid to host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

With some 250,000 visitors expected during a 16-day period, local tourism officials are suggesting that travelers begin thinking about their plans now.

Construction has begun on three major event venues in Vancouver and nearby Whistler.

The three venues are the Whistler Nordic Center (the site for cross-country skiing, ski-jumping, biathlon and combined events), a speed-skating oval in Richmond (just south of the city, near Vancouver Airport) and the Whistler Sliding Center (the site for bobsled, luge and some other events).

In addition, British Columbias provincial transit authority, Translink, has given the green light to a rail link that will connect Richmond, the airport and downtown Vancouver. The project is to be finished in time for the Games.

But with warm weather approaching, clients can visit several new attractions long before the Olympics kick off.

Among them is Storyeum, a 104,000-square-foot underground theater in the historical Gastown section, which opened last year.

Using live actors, special effects and music, Storyeum depicts the history of British Columbia, from the gold rush through the railroad days and beyond. Admission is $18. Call (604) 687-8142 or visit

Downtown Vancouver's dramatic architecture, with Burrard Inlet just beyond.Across Burrard Inlet, the Capilano Suspension Bridge opened the Treetops Adventure. A series of cable footbridges suspended among giant fir trees, it offers a new way to view the lush forest -- an interesting complement to the existing bridge over the Capilano River. Admission is $17. Call (604) 985-7474 or visit

Then, beginning in June, Vancouvers Biennale will bring sculpture to public spaces throughout the city for an 18-month period. Among the 20 works are pieces by Yoko Ono, Dennis Oppenheim and Bill Reid. Call (604) 682-1289 or visit

Meanwhile, Vancouvers hotels continue to make improvements.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver renovated its on-site Absolute Spa and recast it as a mens spa and treatment center -- the first such male-focused spa in Canada, according to Hayley Winter, spa manager. Call (604) 648-2909 or visit Room rates at the hotel start at $195. Call (604) 684-3131 or visit

The stylish Pacific Palisades Hotel, the first Kimpton property outside the U.S., refurbished its four penthouse suites as well as its trendy eatery, Zin.

The property offers a Pathfinder package that includes a one-night stay, breakfast, a wine reception and a guided hiking tour with Eco Trail Escapes. The package is priced at $319 per night, double; special room-only rates start at $101. Call (604) 688-0461 or visit

The Sandman Suites on Davie opened on Davie Street in 2004 on the site of the former Park Hill Hotel. The 195-room property has a new outdoor pool as well as a new spa and fitness center. Rates start at $109. Call (604) 681-7263 or visit

Visitors staying close to the airport have new amenities to discover. The Fairmont Vancouver Airport has a self-service check-in kiosk that also enables guests to print airline boarding passes.

The hotel offers an entire floor of hypoallergenic rooms, available at no extra charge. Room rates start at $220 per night. Call (604) 207-5200 or visit

In airport news, Vancouver Airport opened Plaza Premium pay-per-use lounges, located in the arrival and departure areas. For $20, passengers can take a shower, access the Internet and use a self-service bar and buffet.

The international departures lounge is home to new sleeping pods -- ergonomic recliners housed in a soundproof compartment. Call (604) 207-7077 or visit

For information about Vancouver and a copy of the 2005 Vancouver Tour Planner, call (604) 682-2222 or visit

To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI