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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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November 18, 2008 11:23 PM

Kicking the Olympic tires in Vancouver

Posted by Ron Judd


Reporting from Vancouver:

Piece by piece, it's coming together.

The ice is fast and frozen at the Richmond Oval, which looks even more gigantic inside than out (Canadian speedkskaters, in fact, already have spent weeks here training ... sorry, testing safety systems, etc., to begin working on their home-ice advantage.)

B.C. Place Stadium is going to require quite the makeover to put on a memorable opening ceremony. We still can't wait to see how they solve that lighting-the-cauldron-indoors dilemma.

And people better start hustling -- and spending that controversial $100 million loan from the city - -to get the Athlete's Village ready to greet the world in less than 15 months.

Those are some early impressions from a couple hundred media types here on the Vancouver Organizing Committee's "World Press Briefing," where editors, facilitators and a few nosey types like myself get an advance look at the inner workings of the upcoming Olympics.

It's a good chance to get the lay of the land, see where athletes will not only compete, but be available afterwards in media "mix zones;" find out where the sub press-centers are at each venue, and meet with Games planners about practical concerns such as lodging, work space, Internet connectivity, photo positions, all of that behind-the-scenes stuff that allows the 10,000 or so journos here to bring you sights, sounds and words from the Games for three weeks in February, 2010. (For many people, this is the only chance they'll get to do this before the Olympics. Scoping out the territory in advance is a big advantage in covering the Games.)

Peering behind the curtains this week for Team Times are myself and sports editor Cathy Henkel. We'll be in Whistler all day Wednesday and back in Vancouver for two days of briefings and further venue tours on Thursday and Friday.

More news as it develops. And we'll bring you some looks inside the venues if we get a chance to upload some pictures.

Meantime: Feel free to post questions here, if any come to mind, about the inner workings of the Games. We'll try to answer them, or find someone who can.

Comments | Category: Canada , Olympic venues , Vancouver 2010 Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 16, 2008 11:01 AM

A new dope lab -- and a backup power plan -- for Vancouver

Posted by Ron Judd


Don't be surprised if doping once again becomes a news thread running through the Beijing Games, with record numbers of tests being administered, and new tests for at least some previously undetected substances, such as EPO.

Doping is already making news, meanwhile, in Vancouver, where the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) is about to announce that its new drug lab will be located in space at the new Richmond Oval (see post below on that building).

The doping lab -- 15,000 square feet of it -- will be built into the street level of the building, the Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee reports today. Vanoc has yet to confirm the deal, but Lee reports that the Richmond lab, which will be in space that will become a sports-medicine clinic after the Games, solves a major problem for Games organizers. They had initially planned to send doping samples to Canada's only World Anti-Doping Agency-certified lab, in Montreal. But the International Olympic Committee said no that that idea.

Meanwhile, a massive power outage in downtown Vancouver on Monday, caused by a fire in underground cables, has some people worried about a similar catastrophe during the Games. Especially since the blackout left in the dark the massive waterfront Convention & Exhibition Centre, which will be the working space for the world's assembled media.

Officials with B.C. Hydro said they're reviewing plans, and will have a backup source of power identified before the Games begin. Monday's power outage left a large portion of downtown Vancouver in the dark for a day and a half.

Ironically, as the Sun notes here, B.C. Hydro is an "official supporter" of the Olympics, having signed a deal to provide primary and secondary sources of power to most venues. That guarantee allowed Vanoc to save about $20 million in backup generators it would have needed to ensure power at all venues.

It's a safe bet that the details of that plan are getting a fresh look from Vanoc officials this week. Monday's failure almost shut down the city, without the pressure of an Olympics.


Comments | Category: Doping , IOC , Olympic venues , Vancouver 2010 Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 25, 2008 2:45 PM

Time for a blue-tarp relief effort for Vancouver 2010?

Posted by Ron Judd

Like the Chinese -- attention, sensitive Canadians: We are NOT comparing Maple Leaf Nation in any other way to China -- Vancouver's Olympic organizers are largely ahead of schedule in getting their venues assembled.

The goal -- in keeping with the Canadian government's "Own the Podium" program -- was to have them all finished in time for a full winter of competition before the Games, which could and should give Canadian athletes an advantage, particularly in sports such as skiing and bobsled/luge/skeleton, where courses are wildly different from place to place, making practice time invaluable.

For the most part, that goal has been met. But the B.C.'ers, true to their soggy roots, seem to be having more than their fair share of roof problems.

From the Vancouver Province comes dual roof-related reports, one about repairs already being needed for the big B.C.-timber roof over the new $180 million (and rising) speedskating venue, the Richmond Oval, the wooden roof of which is said to be moldy -- sorry, mouldy -- in so many places that up to 70 percent of it is now suspect and must be "inspected."

Gentlemen, start your lawyers.

Another report speculates about the possibility that the storm-damaged soft roof at B.C. Place Stadium, home of opening, closing and nightly medal ceremonies, might be replaced with a retractable roof -- which, needless to say -- would be very cool.

If they could pull off the latter, within the limited time and within limited budget, they'd head our list of all-time Olympic venue geniuses. But it's a pretty risky proposition. Our own government (insert your own Katrina joke here) began planning a couple years ago to build an enhanced U.S. customs facility at the Blaine border crossing in time for the Games. And the CBC reports it's already looking like we won't even be able to accomplish that by 2010.

For all of them, we offer three words of thrifty Northwesterner's advice: Big Blue Tarps.

We're always willing to lend a hand to our Canadian friends in a time of need. All it would take is the wave of a pen for President Bush to tap into FEMA's strategic tarp reserve.

Comments | Category: Olympic venues , Vancouver 2010 Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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Blogroll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.