The Last Minute Olympics Guide

Let the Games begin!

Category: featured stories


It's just weeks away from the February 12 opening ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Whether you miraculously manage to book last-minute accommodations or just head north for the day, you can still experience the Olympics, even without a ticket to a single competition. Attend medal ceremonies, take part in multicultural festivities and party at celebration sites, where you’ll find interactive exhibits, food sampling and huge big-screen televisions that will broadcast live, sold-out events, such as hockey games. Many events are free—meaning you may have enough Loonies (the affectionate name for the Canadian $1 coin) in your wallet to bring home an official souvenir. This is the closest Seattle may ever get to an Olympics in our lifetime, after all, so take our insider’s guide along to get the most out of it.

You don’t have a ticket, competitions are all sold out, and you think you’re out of luck, eh? Take heart, you still have a chance. The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) has an official fan-to-fan resale site (, where tickets will be authenticated and guaranteed before being sold. Be wary of unauthorized, secondary markets such as Craigslist and eBay. VANOC is cracking down on scammers by invalidating tickets proven to have been scalped. This will target big offenders and not the average Joe, but don’t get caught in the middle and have your Olympic dreams taken away!

Getting across the border may be the biggest challenge for Seattleites who want to visit Vancouver during the Games. But there is another challenge for those who want to view the ski jumping or bobsled races at Whistler. Anyone traveling to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway (also known as Highway 99) between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. for the duration of the Games needs a pass to get through a checkpoint that will be located just beyond Squamish. Hotels are issuing a Traffic Checkpoint permit to their confirmed guests, which basically says, “I have a place to park my car.” No permit? Better stay home or take the bus. For bus info and other transportation details, go to


Live City Downtown
and Live City Yaletown
These two sites—at the former bus depot at Georgia and Beatty streets, and in David Lam Park, respectively—will be connected by pedestrian thoroughfares on Hamilton and Mainland streets. The Yaletown site is expected to be an especially spectacular location. Nightly at 11 p.m., local fire pumps will spray water from False Creek into the air, which will then be illuminated by a light show. Celebrations will continue at the Live City Downtown site during the Paralympic Winter Games.

Robson Square Plaza
and GE Plaza
Once the Games begin, Robson Square Plaza (on Robson Street between Howe and Hornby) will host the International Media Centre and as well as Showcase B.C., which will offer exhibits highlighting British Columbia’s history, scenery and resources. State-of-the-art screens will broadcast live Olympic events, and the public can also take a spin on the new GE Plaza Ice Rink, which will open in November (free; skate rentals available).

The O Zone
This official site in the heart of Richmond (and a short walk from the Olympic Oval, the venue for speed skating competitions) will host nightly celebrations, an outdoor ice rink (free; skate rentals available) and the Ice Gate, which will showcase giant sheets of ice painted by renowned artist Gordon Halloran, creator of the ice art for the 2006 Tor