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During Olympics, Vancouver shines

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Vancouver may be the host of the 2010 Winter Games, but it felt more like summer in the city Sunday afternoon, Feb. 14.

The sun was shining and the streets downtown were packed with people happy to get a break from the rain.

During the day, the city atmosphere is family-friendly, with strollers and kids on shoulders at every turn, but at night the 20-something crowd comes out to party. One security guard said it gets a little like Mardi Gras once the sun goes down. Overall, though, the feeling in the city is positive, safe and fun.

"It's wonderful," said Lorna Kane, of Surrey, B.C., who was in the city for the day with her children and grandchildren. "I don't come downtown as much as I used to, so it's just nice to see all the people walking and having a good day."

One of Kane's favorite spots to see was Robson Square, where a variety of activities are set up to entertain visitors. People gathered around the outdoor ice rink, watching Winter Games mascots make moves on their skates between free skating times. Behind the rink is a stage with performers - from circus acts and dancers to drummers.

By far the most popular activity in Robson Square, and probably in downtown Vancouver, was the zip-line ride. It opens at 10 a.m., but people start lining up at 8 a.m. to ride a zip line from one side of the square to the other, high over the crowds. The wait on Sunday afternoon was five hours, with a line snaking around the block. When the zip-liners swoop overhead with a whoosh, people can't help but stop and look up. One dad even told his kids it was like Spiderman.

Andy and Eloisa Litjens came to the city from Port Coquitlam, B.C., and though they didn't have tickets to any Olympic events, they were having a blast strolling through the city.

"We just came to see all the excitement on the streets," Andy Litjens said. "It's neat. I think it's going great."

The couple plan to come back a few more times before the games are over, just to take it all in. And there is a lot to take in - from the music at the Aboriginal Pavilion to the shopping to the magicians and jugglers performing on streets closed for pedestrian traffic. Visitors could spend days exploring the city without even attending an Olympic event.

"Vancouver is a beautiful city," Eloisa Litjens said. "I would recommend everyone come. We're lucky to have it here."

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