Olympic lineups to grow as events hit high gear

Vancouver's public transit network is about to face its toughest challenge yet, as the start of men's ice hockey and curling on Tuesday adds thousands more Olympic spectators to already lengthy lineups.

Complaints about Cypress Mountain venue will be addressed, VANOC says

Olympic spectators line up at the free LiveCity site in Yaletown, which offers live music, pavilions and giant screen broadcasts of Olympic events. ((CBC))

Vancouver's public transit network is about to face its toughest challenge yet, as the start of men's ice hockey and curling on Tuesday adds thousands more Olympic spectators to already lengthy lineups.

TransLinks says it's been gearing up for Day 5 of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the first day that all Vancouver venues have a full slate of events.

There are three hockey games at Canada Hockey Place, three curling events at the Vancouver Olympic Centre, figure-skating competition at the Pacific Coliseum, a victory ceremony at BC Place, and live music at the two Downtown LiveCity sites.

Over the weekend, there were waits of more than an hour at some SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus and bus terminals and stations as spectators flooded public transit to get to and from venues. 

The crowds were not unexpected, however. The official Olympic transportation plan provides no parking at official venues but provides free public transit for ticket holders.

Pavilion lineups lead to letdown

But it is not just the sporting events that have long lineups. The waits to get into many of the corporate and government pavilions scattered around Vancouver, and to the O-zone site in Richmond, have stretched around city blocks.

Two thrill-seekers prepare to launch themselves off the zipline platform high above Vancouver's Robson Street. ((CBC))

Even the Hudson's Bay store in downtown Vancouver had a two-block lineup for people eager to get official Olympic clothing.

And despite the long waits, those who do get into the pavilions — many set up to host corporate events for VIPs — say they are often disappointed by the displays and activities inside.

But the biggest lineup of all has been for the free zipline ride across Robson Street in downtown Vancouver, an experience many have said is worth the wait.

Up to 3,000 people a day have waited up to seven hours in the rain for a chance to strap themselves into a harness for the exhilarating 20-second ride down the cable suspended high above the busy city street. .

"All in the Olympic spirit my friend, all in the Olympic spirit," one patient zipliner said.

Cypress venue falls short

There have been complaints about the lineups at Cypress Mountain Resort, which hosted the freestyle skiing events over the weekend. Spectators said the resort was unprepared for the crowds, with three-hour waits for food and beverages forcing many people to miss parts of the freestyle events.

A fan reads a newspaper in the rain and fog at the finish area of the women's snowboard cross event during a weather delay at the Vancouver Winter Olympics Games on Cypress Mountain February 16, 2010. ((Mark Blinch/Reuters))

The waits were made worse by food shortages and an Olympic ban on bringing food or water into events, and the overcrowded warming tents, which couldn't provide enough shelter from the pouring rain.

There were also complaints that buses for the Cypress events were inadequate, got lost, broke down or failed to keep to schedules.

"We saw people with their kids who were in tears trying to make their way back to buses just to find shelter because of the crush of the crowds, the inability to get anything warm to drink and unable to get into the warming hut," Cliff Shannon told CBC News on Monday. "There was simply nowhere to go."

VANOC vice-president Renee Smith-Valade blamed much of what happened on the poor weather over the weekend and she promised that organizers would try to find solutions.

"We'll keep doing everything we can to make the venue as comfortable and easy for people to get food and beverages," she said.

But organizers may not have to worry about the crowds now, after rain and mud forced them to cancel another 20,000 general admission tickets for all events at the Cypress venue on Tuesday. Earlier, 8,000 tickets were cancelled.