Monday, February 14, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 14, 2010

Problems plague Cypress, transportation systems
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER: Millions of dollars were spent to truck and airlift snow to cover the rainsoaked slopes of Cypress Mountain, but that’s not VANOC’s only problem at the snowboarding and freestyle skiing venue.

Food service was disrupted by a power outage during Saturday night women’s moguls competition. Lineups were long and crowd control described as chaotic by fans trying to get out of the wind and rain and onto buses. At least one bus load of spectators from Burnaby Mountain missed the start of competition because they were picked-up almost 90 minutes late.

“Cypress is like your special child, your special child that’s bright and talented and good-looking and causes you all kinds of worries, but they’re still your special child,” said VANOC communications vice-president Renee Smith-Valade.

Smith-Valade downplayed troubles with the Olympic bus network. Media, spectators and athletes have reported a variety of problems, mainly with 300 public transit buses imported from California by subcontractor Edison Transportation. Buses have broken down or gotten lost because of drivers unfamiliar with the region. She said another 100 buses are being added to the fleet of 1,100 vehicles.

“We’ve spent years planning the transportation system and the geographic nature of our Games region presents some unique challenges with all of the transportation up to the mountain venues being by bus,” Smith-Valade said.

“Mechanical failures happen and sometimes it’s human failure, you can have people that don’t show up for a shift -- and that happens in any organization -- bus drivers who get sick and the odd bus driver who gets lost.”

Four Host First Nations members missed the start of the Friday opening ceremony, but Smith-Valade said they were in vehicles rerouted because of an anti-Olympic protest.

VANOC budgeted $52.3 million for bus systems in its May 2007 operations budget and hired Orlando, Fla.-based Gameday Management Group, which was involved in the much-criticized 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The Vancouver 2010 transportation plan was originally supposed to be completed by the end of 2007.

“There’s thousands of buses, there are hundreds of drivers, there are nine transportation hubs, so it’s a big beast to manage,” Smith-Valade said. “We want to get it right, we’re having some teething issues, no question.”

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