We got to Vancouver this morning and the headline is the Olympic spirit is infectious!
We went to a reception given by Washington State and British Columbia. It was an example of what I always talk about- the closeness of the relationship between our two countries. And it showed what the Olympics are all about. Governor Christine Gregoire told the story about how, on the previous day, she and Gordon Campbell, the Premier of BC, had stood at the Peace Arch between White Rock, BC, and Blaine, WA, waiving their respective flags as the torch crossed for a few moments between Canada and the United States. No division. Just celebration.
We went to a reception given by Premier Ed Stelmach of Alberta where we had a chance to talk with the Chairman of VANOC, Rusty Goepel. He told me he has been involved with the effort to bring the games to Vancouver for 12 years. Needless to say, he was a little excited that he had only one more day to wait. We also went to a dinner for a group of US and Canadian business leaders where I got a chance to catch up with Canadian Minister of State for Sport – and my friend from my trip to Afghanistan – Gary Lunn. He will be a busy guy for the next two weeks.
But the highlight of the day was our visit to the Olympic Village to see the athletes. We met with the co-Mayors of the village: Tricia Smith, the 7- time world- champion rower, Olympic silver medalist, and Vice-President of the Canadian Olympic Committee; and Rick Hansen, Canada’s Man-in-Motion, Paralympic medalist, and the person whose around-the- world journey in a wheelchair highlighted the potential of people with disabilities. Their enthusiasm set the tone for everything else.
The athletes are just about all moved in and each country’s team decks out their balconies and windows with flags. Canada’s – not surprisingly – have the most.
We then went to the raising of the flags of the United States and the Ukraine (they do them two at a time). When it was our turn and they played the Star Spangled Banner it made me very proud to be there and to be a part of all this.
After the flag ceremony we met with several of the athletes. I’m a big fan of the US women’s curling team. I plan on following their every move at the games.
Tomorrow the Vice President arrives for the Opening Ceremonies!