Winter Games chief defends glitch-prone games
AP Sports Writer
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – The head of the Vancouver Olympics made an impassioned defense of the games Wednesday after days of scathing criticism of the fenced-in flame, ticket cancellations and other glitches.
Vancouver organizing committee CEO John Furlong said the games have inspired excitement among athletes, spectators and the entire host country, and he said officials have fixed problems as quickly as they could.
“Everything is going well,” he said. “It’s quite euphoric. We’ve been dealt things we had not anticipated, and we’ve tried to get them out of the way.”
Furlong said he was aware of media criticism of what some have already dubbed the Glitch Games – including provocative British newspaper headlines suggesting these could be the worst Olympics ever.
“I’ve read some things I didn’t like reading,” Furlong said at a news conference. “I don’t believe it’s true or fair.”
Vancouver officials addressed a key complaint Wednesday when they opened public access to the Olympic cauldron – the iconic image of the games – along the city waterfront.
Organizers opened a rooftop promenade to give visitors an unobstructed view. They also moved a security fence closer to the cauldron and cut an opening along the fence to allow people to take photos from ground level.
“We actually believe we have a solution that’s better than the one people were originally asking for,” Furlong said.
Because of rain and record warm temperatures at Cypress Mountain outside Vancouver, site of freestyle skiing events, organizers canceled 28,000 standing-room tickets worth about $1.5 million this week.
And all manner of other problems have plagued the games. Ice resurfacing machines have broken down, weather has played havoc with the schedule, and officials have made embarrassing timing errors at events.
“People had a bit of fun at our expense with respect to the equipment to resurface the ice at the oval,” Furlong said. “The question is: What did we do when the problem happened? We fixed it. And that is really what the job of the organization is – to try to deal with these things as they come up.”
Organizers had to call in a Zamboni from Calgary, in the next-door province of Alberta, after machines made by Olympia – which has a partnership deal with the Vancouver Games – left slush and pools of water on the ice.
After a seven years of painstaking preparations for the games, Furlong said organizers are dealing with issues as they arise.
“I don’t think there’s anybody here and anyone in the city that would have been prepared to say, ‘I could have predicted this’ – some of the things that Vancouver 2010 had to deal with,” he said.
He noted the games had started with “the most severe human blow you could imagine” – the death of a young Georgian luger whose sled flew off the tracks in a training run.
Other prominent Olympic officials came to the defense of the Vancouver Games. Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, said comparison to the famously glitch-prone 1996 Atlanta Games are off-base.
“Anybody who was in Atlanta and is here today knows that the difference is night and day,” Pound said.
He said the Olympics have been “terrific” for spectators and television views and praised organizers’ handling of logistical curveballs.
The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, said Vancouver was getting an unfair rap.
“I hope their luck turns from bad to good, and they get the credit for the wonderful show that they’ve put together here,” he said.
And British IOC member Craig Reedie, whose country will host the 2012 Olympics in London, said the British media had gone too far in their attacks on Vancouver.
“I think the overreaction is a bit hard,” he said. “The major problems here are weather issues. They are working through it, and it’s getting better. I think it will just get better and better as the games go on.”