BERNE – John Furlong, chief executive officer of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, addressed the IIHF Congress on Friday morning. His message: the Games are ready to go, and hockey is a top priority.
Furlong told Congress that when Olympic tickets went on sale in October 2008, the three most in-demand events were, in order, the men's gold medal hockey game, the opening ceremonies at BC Place Stadium, and the women's gold medal hockey game.
Every hockey ticket put on sale in October was sold. And the demand hasn't let up. When the men's and women's hockey games kick off in February 2010, the two venues--the 18,630-capacity Canada Hockey Place (aka GM Place) downtown and the 7,200-capacity UBC Thunderbird Arena at the University of British Columbia campus--will be packed.
“Hockey is the lead sport in our country, and this is the most-desired hockey event ever staged in Canada,” said Furlong. “I'd also say that the number one sport administrator in Canada is Hockey Canada's Bob Nicholson.”
Canada won gold in both men's and women's hockey the last time the Winter Olympics were staged in North America, the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, and Hockey Canada's focus is on repeating that feat on home ice. At the two previous Olympics in Canada (the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary), no Canadian athletes or teams won gold.
Furlong also had words of praise for IIHF President René Fasel, who doubles as chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for 2010. “He has been a tireless worker,” said Furlong. “René is also a champion for sustainability at the Olympic Games, not just with the environment, but also socially and economically. Everything that we have tried to do will leave a positive mark on the community.”
Furlong spoke of the incredible preparations that have taken place in Vancouver, the leading city in the West Coast province of British Columbia with a metropolitan population of 2 million. “All the venues are ready, and the entire area has been transformed,” said Furlong, adding that the new Canada Line express train, slated to open in September, will whisk Olympic visitors from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to downtown in just 26 minutes.
“The two weeks that you spend with us will be in every respect a highlight of your life,” Furlong concluded.
A former Canadian squash champion and longtime Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) member, Furlong played an instrumental role in getting the 2010 Games awarded to Vancouver on July 2, 2003 over Pyeongchang, South Korea and Salzburg, Austria. After serving as the face of the bid, he was named the 2010 CEO in 2004.
Vancouver previously hosted the IIHF World U20 Championship in 2006, and is well-known as the super-scenic home of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, featuring such Olympians as Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo and Swedish forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
For tickets and more information about the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, check out vancouver2010.com. Additional details about visiting Vancouver and British Columbia are available at tourismvancouver.com, vcmbc.com, and hellobc.com.