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  • Vancouver Mayor on Paralympics, Olympics


    Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan in Turin. (ATR) 
    (ATR) Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan says he supports bringing more 2010 Winter Paralympics events from Whistler to Vancouver, "if it's best for the athletes". Sullivan spoke to Around the Rings from Turin, where he is attending the final days of the 2006 Paralympics.

    "I've simply made a comment that I would love to see some event, some sport in Vancouver. I'm not making any suggestions on what that should be," says Sullivan in response to suggestions that sledge hockey matches should be moved from Whistler to Vancouver.

    Outside of opening and closing ceremonies, all events for the Vancouver Paralympics are scheduled for Whistler.

    "I think the citizens in Vancouver would like to have an event closer and I would like to have more of our people experience the Paralympics," says Sullivan, adding that he would "welcome the conversation" about a possible change.

    This week, the Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee reported that VANOC chief executive John Furlong says he would consider a move for sledge hockey, based on the popularity of the sport in Turin. The Sun has also reported that Hockey Canada, which oversees sledge hockey in Canada, would like to see semifinal and final games to be played in Vancouver, a move which could help boost the sport

    Sullivan Wants Vancouver Benchmark for Paralympics

    Vancouver's mayor says one noticeable difference between his experience at the Paralympics and last month at the Winter Olympics is the amount of media coverage. With upwards of 15,000 media in Turin last month, the Paralympics have drawn less than a thousand accredited journalists.

    "One of the most the important things we could to is to convince the international media to focus on the Parlympics and Olympics," says Sullivan about his aspirations for the Vancouver Paralympics.

    Sullivan, the first paraplegic mayor of an Olympic host city would seem to be in a prime position to boost the cause of Paralympic sports. He says he is confident that Vancouver is ready to set a benchmark.

    "Vancouver is widely believed to be the most accessible city in the whole world," says the mayor, who expects the Paralympics to benefit from that awareness.

    "Vancouver is the first Winter Olympics to have the management of both games under one organization. The Paralympics were a real priority for our bid committee," he says.

    City Hall and the Organizing Committee

    In an interview with Around the Rings last month in Turin as the Winter Olympics drew to a close, Sullivan said he believes in using the Games to help drive improvements to the city.

    "We're willing to take the efforts to take initiatives that can really make a difference. I am looking forward to using the Olympics and Paralympics as a way to catalyze other levels of government to do the right thing."

    While elected mayor just a few months ago, Sullivan says he is not a novice to the Olympics.

    "I was a member of city council seven or eight years ago when we applied and put the bid together. I was always involved with that, at that time, to support the Olympics and Paralympics. I've been involved right from the very beginning when the original bid was discussed, and I've sup
    Sullivan with the Olympics flag during closing ceremony last month. (Matt Crossman) 
    ported it all along," he says.

    Sullivan acknowledges the relationships between past Olympic organizing committees and city governments have been difficult. He has hopes things will be different in Vancouver.

    "I've heard about these differences, and I know that the real focus of the VANOC group is excellent games, and the focus for me as mayor will be to make sure that the city benefits in the long term from the Games.

    "I'm very pleased to state my opinion, and how I believe things should go, but I also believe that I do need to leave a lot of the responsibility for games-related issues in the hands of VANOC, and I support that."

    Closing Ceremony Protocol

    Sullivan admits a more tricky relationship may be involved between himself and Whistler mayor Ken Melamed over the Paralympics. With Whistler holding most of the events for an event known as the Vancouver Paralympics, Sullivan says there will be a "fine line" to watch to avoid stepping on toes.

    That includes split duties for Paralympics flag protocol during Sunday's closing ceremony.

    For the first time, two mayors will be on hand to receive the Paralympics flag. Sullivan, using the same bracket on his wheelchair from the Olympics closing ceremony Feb. 26, will circle the stage with the flag during the Paralympics close, as he did with the Olympic flag last month.

    Melamed will have the honor of bringing the flag back to Canada. The two mayors will take part in a flag-raising in Whistler on March 24.

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