Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sandra Welcomes Canada's Athletes

Here us an article from The Canadian Press:

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Canada's Olympic team hoisted its colours and, once Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other dignitaries had left, the party began Wednesday at the Vancouver athletes' village.

Women's hockey team captain Hayley Wickenheiser and figure skater Patrick Chan chatted and exchanged contact information, blue-clad volunteers swarmed red-clad athletes to wish them luck and actress Sandra Oh and a Mountie in Red Serge danced in the rain to celebrate the host team's official arrival in the athletes' village.

Oh, a member of the cast of the TV drama "Grey's Anatomy," served as mistress of ceremonies. Rick Hansen, who inspired Canadians with his wheelchair trip around the world to raise money for spinal-injury research, and former Olympic rower Patricia Smith welcomed the athletes to what will be their home until Feb. 28.

"Who has a dream here? Who has a dream?" Hansen asked as several red-mittened hands went up among the athletes.

Cooling temperatures and drizzling rain didn't seem to dampen enthusiasm for the raising of the Maple Leaf. The festivities concluded with dance music emphasized by live drummers.

Harper chatted with the athletes, some of whom gathered behind him for a quick photo. Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean also took in the festivities before she was given a tour of the village.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound and Senator Nancy Greene-Raine, a former Olympic gold medallist in alpine skiing, were among those at the ceremony on the edge of False Creek.

"There's a confidence," was Greene-Raine's observation of Canada's athletes. "I wouldn't say cocky. I would just say they're really sure of themselves."

The athletes' village is just across from B.C. Place, which is the venue for Friday's opening ceremonies.

"I can't wait for Friday night," said Canadian team chef de mission Natalie Lambert.

Several countries held ceremonial flag ceremonies Wednesday and the host team staged the last of them.

Wickenheiser, from Shaunavon, Sask., is a veteran of such events with appearances in five Olympics, including the Summer Games of 2000.

"This is the best because it's in Canada," she said. "You're standing there and you've got the prime minister, the governor general, you've got all these people including Sandra Oh and Canadian volunteers, police officers and military everywhere. It feels like home."

Snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll of Whistler, B.C., didn't participate in a flag-raising four years ago in Turin, Italy, because her team stayed up in the mountains in a smaller village.

"We were just having dinner and it's amazing all the faces we get to see," she exclaimed. "It's a completely different experience than last time."

Hockey team forward Jayna Hefford said the fact Canadians built the village for athletes around the world deepened her emotions during the evening.

"There's a big sense of pride in this village in what we as a country have been able to put on and have been able to put on in the next two weeks," she said.

"There's still that little bit of nervousness going on and that focus, but at the end of the day, it's going to be awesome with all the support we have."
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