Olympic organizers hope the 2010 Winter Olympics will be remembered as the Games that put the spotlight on Aboriginal groups and athletes. Some 40 major Aboriginal groups populate British Columbia, a province in western Canada known for its natural splendor and diverse cultural heritage. (Vancouver is the largest city in British Columbia and the third largest city in Canada.) The Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations tribes have signed on to be the Four Host First Nations for the 2010 Winter Olympics–the first time indigenous peoples have been included as official Olympic hosts.
By encouraging Aboriginal participation "as athletes, volunteers, employees, entrepreneurs, artists and performers, spectators or cultural ambassadors," the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) hopes to forge strong and lasting relationships with indigenous people, act as an Olympic model for native participation, and foster future Aboriginal Olympians. Some up-and-coming indigenous athletes include First Nations snowboarder Chelsie Mitchell, Inuit speed skater Aqpik Peter, Métis biathlete Mareck Beaudoin, Métis curler Travis Jones, First Nations alpine skier Sammy Kent, and Inuit hockey goalie Leah Sulyma.
An estimated three billion television viewers from all over the globe will watch elite athletes from 92 countries compete in 86 medal events spanning seven sports at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The opening ceremonies begin on February 12, 2010.
In preparation for the "Sea to Sky Games," a projected $1.7 billion will be spent readying Vancouver for as many as 5,500 athletes and team officials, 10,000 media representatives, and tens of thousands of spectators who will descend upon the city and region. New construction includes two new Olympic Villages (in Vancouver and Whistler), a rapid transit line (Canada Line) linking Vancouver with Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport, the Vancouver Olympic Centre (curling), the Richmond Oval (speed skating), and the UBC Thunderbird Arena (ice hockey). In addition, upgrades will be made to the Sea to Sky Highway, Cypress Mountain (freestyle skiing, snowboard), the Pacific Coliseum (figure skating, short track speed skating), and Whistler Creekside (alpine skiing). To accommodate the media and to house the opening, closing, and medal ceremonies, four non-competition venues will also be built or renovated.
Certainly, the world of elite athletes is a tough place to play. Drama in the form of personal idiosyncrasies, vendettas, temper tantrums, and controversies large and small will certainly come. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), in cooperation with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), wants the Olympic experience to be "real" and drug-free. A state-of-the-art anti-doping program and testing facility will be on site. The World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited Doping Control Laboratory at the Richmond Olympic Oval will have the potential to perform up to 2,000 tests (a 66% increase from Torino) of both blood and urine at any time during the course of the Games. VANOC's anti-doping initiative calls real sport "pure human energy;" those that sully that purity should expect to get caught.