(Edited from AP)  As snow falls on the craggy peaks providing the stunning backdrop to this glimmering city on the Pacific, Vancouver prepares to welcome thousands of athletes and visitors from around the world for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

 

More than 5,500 athletes and coaches, almost 11,000 members of the media and up to 350,000 visitors are expected. In preparation, Vancouver is being draped in Olympic finery.

(Edited from AP)  As snow falls on the craggy peaks providing the stunning backdrop to this glimmering city on the Pacific, Vancouver prepares to welcome thousands of athletes and visitors from around the world for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

 

More than 5,500 athletes and coaches, almost 11,000 members of the media and up to 350,000 visitors are expected. In preparation, Vancouver is being draped in Olympic finery.

 

Vancouver:

Giant murals of athletes cover downtown skyscrapers. Green, white and blue Olympic banners adorn the street poles. Participating countries are putting final touches on pavilions to welcome visitors  including an Olympic first, pavilions to welcome gay and lesbian visitors, located in both Vancouver and Whistler, the Games’ second venue. The city’s Visitor Information Centre and satellite kiosks will be open throughout the city, and hundreds of sky-blue-uniformed volunteers are trained and ready to answer visitors’ questions.

 

“The city is taking shape,” said Games organizing committee CEO John Furlong.

 

This is Canada’s third time welcoming the Olympics. It hosted the Montreal 1976 Summer Games and the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. No Canadian has ever won a gold medal on home turf.

 

Vancouver also is the most populous destination ever to host the Winter Olympics, with 2.1 million people in the greater Vancouver regional area, according to Canada’s 2006 census. It considers itself to be a sophisticated destination, with five-star hotels, glittering skyscrapers and tremendous ethnic diversity. About a third of those who live in the Vancouver metropolitan area are of Asian descent, according to census statistics.

 

Whistler:

Nearby winter resorts such as Whistler, known for its vibrant village and challenging terrain, have been compared to Vail, Colorado, and other lively ski towns. But access to Whistler for alpine Olympic events is being strictly controlled. Private cars without parking permits will not be allowed past checkpoints at the town of Squamish on the breathtaking 90-mile (145-kilometer) Sea-to-Sky Highway.

 

Those lucky enough to get to Whistler can ride the Peak 2 Peak gondola. It has the longest unsupported span for a gondola of its kind in the world at 1.88 miles(3 kilometers), and the highest lift of its kind above the valley floor at 1,427 feet (435 meters).

 

Accommodation:

Accommodations for the games are scarce but not impossible to find. Organizing committee vice president of services Terry Wright said the demand is unprecedented for a winter Olympics, but Tourism Vancouver anticipates rooms becoming available and suggests checking its Web site regularly for openings.

 

“There are still rooms to be had in the downtown core,” said Tourism Vancouver’s Walt Judas.

 

Dozens of ads for private accommodations dot Web sites like such as Craigslist.

 

For visitors with thinner wallets, a 300-bed hostel is opening at The Eldorado Hotel on Kingsway Avenue. Other hostels operate in the Gastown and Main Street areas.

 

Those without tickets to the games can celebrate with other fans at two so-called LiveCity sites in the downtown area, where events will be shown on giant screens.

 The 2010 Games are not just about sports. The Cultural Olympiad will present an array of events including art shows and rock concerts at theaters and other sites throughout the region; (http://www.vancouver2010.com/cultural-festivals-and-events/).

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