Richmond Oval (Long-track Speedskating)
The Oval in Torino was a lot like a Costco with ice. The Richmond Oval in comparison oozes personality and warmth. Part of it has to do with the massive beams made from salvaged pine beetle infested wood.
The other part is — like they say in the real estate biz — location, location, location. The Oval sits on the banks of the Fraser River, and on good days you can look out the glassed north side and see not only the water, but all the way to the snow capped North Shore mountains. At the last Olympics, our long-track team won nearly a full third of Canada's medals (Eight out of 25) so perhaps it's only fair that they get the showpiece venue of the 2010 Games.
Issues: Icemakers are working to make fast ice but are finding it challenging. Combined with the thick sea level atmosphere, don't count on many, if any, record setting times.
Whistler Olympic Park (Cross-country, Biathlong, Ski Jumping)
Located just south of Whistler in the beautiful Callaghan Valley what used to be a small cross country ski area now houses two ski jumps, a shooting range and 14 kilometres of both classic and skating race trails. The feature attraction as far as the skiers are concerned is the natural snow. With global warming natural snow is becoming a rare commodity, especially in Europe.
The skating section of the cross-country course has been criticized as too easy, but the recent World Cup test event proved the many tight turns and long flat section through the stadium will produce plenty of drama.
Potential Issue: Transporting spectators along the 15-km single lane access road.
Bigger Potential Issue: Revolt by spectators who paid top dollar for ski jumping tickets only to discover the limited appeal of northern Europeans with hard-to-pronounce last names endlessly flinging themselves off the large hill one after another, after another, after another after….
Pacific Coliseum (Figure Skating, Short-track Speedskating)
There are many wonderful new venues for the 2010 Olympics. The Pacific Coliseum is not one of them. Opened in 1968, the "Rink on Renfrew" may not be as flashy or refined as the skaters who waltz across its ice, but there's no denying a certain element of retro concrete charm.
After all, this is where legions of Vancouver Canuck hockey fans watched their team string together 15 consecutive losing seasons through the '70's and '80's — still an NHL record! Organizers spent 20-million dollars on a not-so-extreme-makeover — new ice, new seats, new bathrooms (never underestimate the power of a decent bathroom in the overall arena experience), and the old girl has cleaned up very nicely.
Potential Issue: errant rhinestone trips up Patrick Chan as he attempts his first ever quad.
UBC Thunderbird Arena (Hockey, Paralympic sledge hockey)
The new seven-thousand seat arena at the University of British Columbia is unremarkable in its function-first design. Still, there is something poetic about putting an Olympic hockey venue in the very place the legendary Father David Bauer formed the first truly national hockey team in 1964.
Potential Issue: Not nearly enough seating for all who will be captivated by the awesome Canadian Sledge Hockey team.
Cypress Mountain (Freestyle Skiing, Snowboarding)
Great location just 30 minutes from downtown but even in toney West Vancouver you can't escape the weather issues of the lower mainland. Fog, wind and rain will be fatal to freestyle aerials and moguls, and could even be too much for the mayhem that is skier cross.
Other potential issue: Organizers lose Cannibal Corpse CD, end up playing Anne Murray throughout the entire half-pipe competition.
GM Place (Hockey)
If it's good enough for the NHL it's good enough for the Olympics.
Potential Issue: The Canadian Men's team fails to win gold and finishes 7th — like last time.
Whistler Sliding Centre (Bobsleigh, Skeleton, Luge)
This $105-million state-of-the-art ice tube transports human bullets down a mountainside, but is that enough to make Canadians care? At the recent Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup, a world speed record of 153 km/h was set by the Latvian four-man bobsleigh team.
Athletes there called the Whistler track tricky, unforgiving, even dangerous. Sliding sport organizers in Canada hope for a big boost in popularity in 2010, but ultimately the Whistler Sliding Centre and the 1988 Calgary Olympic track might end up being one bobsleigh run too many in a country that's not so culturally connected to these sports. Then again, what do I know about sliding 140 km/h head first on a cafeteria tray?
Potential Issue: Lesser sliding nations end up crashing over and over again thanks to the dangerous combination of little experience and a very tough track. Think Jamaican bobsled team with head and neck injuries.