CALL THEM the Sea-to-Sky Games. The name comes from an expensive and essential road: the Sea-to-Sky Highway, expanded at a cost of $600 million to handle Olympic traffic between Vancouver and mountain venues at Whistler (map, above). But sea and sky will define the XXI Winter Games in other ways, literally and symbolically. A spectacular Pacific Coast setting helped Vancouver land the Olympics and shaped not only its great-place-to-live image but also its population—so heavy with immigrants, mostly from Asia, that half the metro area's 2.3 million residents speak a native language other than English. The climate too is ocean-driven. Vancouver is the warmest winter host ever (average February high: 44° F), and organizers fear that a so-called Pineapple Express front could blow in from the South Pacific and cause an Olympic meltdown (including mountain fog). Many residents see clouds in the Games themselves; that is, in the potential sky-high taxpayer bill that looms because of cost overruns and low sponsorship. Most Canadians, though, see a spirited fortnight and many home team medals: The sky is the limit.
Two hours north of the city, in the Fitzsimmons mountain range, sit a telegenic resort town, an athletes' village and a cluster of outdoor venues: the bobsled-luge-skeleton run (left), the ski jump, the Alpine slopes, the cross-country trails and the biathlon shooting range.
Besides the ceremonies at BC Place (the large dome, above) and the signature sport at Canada Hockey Place (right of dome), the city will host figure skating and short-track speedskating at the Pacific Coliseum, curling at the Vancouver Olympic Center and more hockey at the University of British Columbia's Thunderbird Arena.
The city just south of Vancouver is home to a new $178 million long-track speedskating oval that has won international design awards and will be the setting for 12 medal races.
Overlooking downtown Vancouver from less than 20 miles away, the ski area boasts the Olympic halfpipe (circled) and will host all the snowboarding and freestyle events, including the new sport of skicross (box, right).
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