Your guide to the (free!) venues and events

Published on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 by Pat Grubb

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You may not have had any luck scoring tickets to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the excitement north of the border. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Olympic fever in the flesh and best of all, there are plenty of things to do and see that won’t cost you an arm or a leg.

Besides the actual events, organizers have set up celebration sites across the lower mainland where people can gather to hear music, watch events on big screen TVs, meet Olympic athletes, eat and drink and much more.

How To Get There:

Make it easy on yourself. Even though it’s a straight shot up Highway 99 to Vancouver, all of the sites you’ll want to visit are close to public transportation. Park by a Skytrain station in Richmond or Surrey if you’re going downtown. If you’re going to the Richmond or Surrey celebration sites, guess what? They’re both at the end of the Skytrain track. The Richmond terminus is at No.3 Road and Westminster Highway adjacent to the Richmond Center mall. It’s less than 30 minutes to downtown from there.

The King George Station is located in Surrey City Centre at the corner of King George Highway and 100th Avenue, just north of the western terminus of the Fraser Highway. The station sits on the edge of a large commuter parking lot. Skytrain will be running later in the day and more frequently to accommodate the expected surge in ridership. Log onto www.translink.ca for schedules, prices and routes.

LiveCity Vancouver: The city of Vancouver with support from the Canadian government has set up two gathering places, LiveCity Downtown and LiveCity Yaletown. Downtown is located at Georgia and Cambie streets, close to B.C. Place and General Motors Place (or what’s being called Canada Hockey Place for the duration of the games).
The Canada Pavilion and CentrePlace Manitoba is located here as is Live@LiveCity, a licensed chalet-style lounge that offers food and drinks. There is a giant screen that will be showing events as they take place and is a good place to meet up with friends in a downtown setting. The site will be open from 11 – 12:30 a.m. daily.

LiveCity Yaletown:
LiveCity Yaletown is located at David Lam Park at the corner of Drake Street and Pacific Boulevard. It will feature live local, national, and international entertainment each day and evening, ending every night with an exciting closing show. Giant screens will show highlights of Olympic Winter Games sport coverage and visitors can enjoy interactive Olympic pavilions, Vancouver House, and best of all – it’s free. LiveCity Yaletown will be open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily.

Organizers have a few tips for visitors. Dress for the weather. It’s Vancouver so rain is not an infrequent weather occurrence. Wear rain gear with a hood and try to leave your umbrellas at home. Expect line-ups and get to know your new neighbors. Don’t bring chairs and travel light. You never know when you’ll be subject to security checks so small handbags are best. This is especially true if you are attending an actual sporting event.

Speaking of which, be prepared to be flexible. As events get closer, expect to see prices drop for some events. Already, tickets on Vanoc’s Fan to Fan exchange seem to be coming down with some pretty close to the original face value.

Even if you were skunked on the original auction, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to nab something. Note: the prices on the fan to fan exchange are for the number of tickets being offered, not a per ticket price. If you see two tickets for X number of dollars then that’s the price for both of them. It’s not very well explained on the site.
For more info or updates, go to www.livecityvancouver.ca.

Robson Square Celebration:
On Robson between Hornby and Howe streets, this site features an outdoor skating rink, a zipline, multimedia displays and live television broadcast. Free.

2010 Aboriginal Pavilion:
Located on the plaza of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on W. Georgia Street, it is only minutes from the LiveCity Vancouver site and features performances and the Aboriginal Artisan Village and Business Showcase. The legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie highlights the opening night performance series at the Chiefs’ House on Friday, February 13. www.fourhostfirst nations.com/

O|ZONE Richmond:
There was no way Richmond was going to get left out of the excitement. Just minutes from the terminus of the new Canada Line Skytrain, the site stretches from Richmond City Hall into Minoru Park. Huge ice art, exhibits, massive high-definition screen, outdoor skating, exhibits, food and beverages (Holland Heineken House anyone?), arts and entertainment.

If you’re into music, this is the place to be. Artists and groups scheduled to perform include Tokyo Police Club, Bedouin Soundclash, The Stills, Our Lady Peace, the Canadian Tenors, the SFU Pipe Band, Wintersleep, Wonderbolt Circus and many more.

A highlight of the site is B.C. Street, a look and celebration of the best of B.C. from the Kootenays to Sooke. In the Main Stage area, an interactive experience allows you to try out your best slapshot, ski through a forest or take a virtual ride in a bobsled. Hang on! Other highlights include exhibits from The Museum of Civilization, First Nations artists building a traditional longhouse, a massive Ice Gate created by artist Gord Halloran and Holland Heineken House.

HHH has long been a fixture at Olympic events. Each night will feature medal ceremonies for Dutch athletes and performances by Dutch artists and DJs. Food and drink are definitely a highlight – the venue stays open until 2 a.m. www.richmondozone.ca

Surrey 2010:
Not to be outdone, Surrey has spent piles of money to create Olympic excitement. Located at the corner of King George Highway (remember him?) and Old Yale Road, it offers convenient access to the Skytrain station into Vancouver and Richmond. Another free site, it’s open Wednesday through Sunday with varying hours.

There are lots of shows that will appeal to all ages. Blue Rodeo, the RCMP Musical Ride, Daniel Wesley, Hot Hot Heat, Sam Roberts, Jully Black, Dan Mangan, Alex Cuba, 54-40, Odds, Marianas Trench, Wide Mouth Mason, Wintersleep, Tokyo Police Club, Randy Bachman and many more. Again, all free. www.surrey2010.com

One of your best resources is the 2010 Olympic Games Free Attractions Guide (http://www.vancouveraccess2010.com/2010-olympic-games-free-attractions/). Here you’ll find out about street performances, shows, performances and more.

You’ll definitely want to visit the various pavilions and ‘houses’ showcasing nations from around the world. Granville Island has been turned into the French Quarter, the historic Roundhouse Community Center is now Casa Italia and Doolin’s Irish Pub is now Irish House (get your Gaelic on!). The Vancouver Rowing Club in Stanley Park is German Saxony House, Science World is now Sochi (Russia) House and Club Bud at the Commodore Ballroom on Granville Street will be party central for five nights.

Visit www.thenorthernlight.com for web links and updates during the Olympics. So go ahead and make plans to enjoy the Games!