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What did we learn from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games?

Graham Bell and Ed Leigh

What did the sports making their Winter Olympic debuts learn?

The Vancouver Games come to a close after a two-week period laden with contrasting emotions.

The Games began under the shadow of the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, as organisers battled unseasonably warm, wet weather and a resulting lack of snow.

But thousands of Canadians partied in the streets of Vancouver when Alexandre Bilodeau won the nation's historic first home Olympic gold medal and, a week later, Amy Williams won skeleton gold for Great Britain.

BBC Sport asks four people at the heart of the Games to explain the lessons they have learned while at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Sir Matthew Pinsent
Sir Matthew Pinsent
BBC Sport reporter, four times Olympic rowing champion

We need to be careful about pressure on home athletes and controlling expectation at London 2012.

One of the ironies of these Games is that Canada is now busy turning in what could be the best-ever Winter Olympic performance by a host nation. Yet, somehow, via a complicated formula of over-egging it and calling Own The Podium the wrong thing, they've left plenty of Canadians with the idea that their team hasn't done very well or performed to expectations.

That's a lesson in how the British team publishes its targets for London. They have boxed themselves in with fourth place in Beijing, but they shouldn't start committing themselves to numbers; they shouldn't say the target is 18 or 20 golds, or to win 55 medals in all.

Canadian women's curling team
Home athletes, such as the Canadian curlers, faced intense pressure

They don't want to slip back down the medal table, and that will be hard enough to prevent. That, however, is not an unrealistic goal, whereas Own The Podium wraps up all sorts of odd connotations which, in retrospect, looks like a huge mistake.

Broadly speaking, Vancouver has done a great job. The mistakes - if you can call them that - were down to the weather, for which you can't really blame the organisers. London needs to look at its venues in that light.

Are they going to be rain-proof? Will uncovered standing areas, which have taken a deluge the night before an event, then cope with thousands of people on them watching sport the next day? At the Summer Olympics in London we might have to deal with that for a couple of days - but hopefully not too long.

My final discovery is that Canadians are the best soundbites ever. You can take a camera out, stand on a street corner, and people will come up and ask if you want an interview. If you take it out after a hockey match you get people screaming into the camera - if you want to see fans going crazy, this is the place.

It feels as though Canadians are crazy about their sport, whereas at Beijing 2008 you never really got that impression, and it will be interesting to see whether the British bury their cynicism for London 2012.

Don Taylor
Don Taylor
Vancouver-born Canadian broadcaster

Vancouver has a reputation - some people, even in Vancouver, call it No-Fun City.

I learned that we can have fun without any violence or anything crazy happening. Saying it's been fun sounds simple, but that is a surprise to some because we thought it wasn't possible.

There have been a lot of festivals and events in the past that have been marred by drunken idiots who ruin it for everyone, and things got cancelled. That hasn't happened here.

I would tell London 2012 organisers to have one party zone - people need to know exactly where the fun is

Instead, we had fun and the organisers centralised it. I was in Atlanta for the Summer Olympics in 1996, and in Turin for the Winter Games 10 years later, and both times the events were all over the place, which meant so was the party.

In Vancouver, a lot of the partying took place downtown, it was focused, you knew where to go - and the same with Whistler. As opposed to having things spread out, I would tell London 2012 organisers to have one party zone and make it a real festival. People need to know exactly where the fun is, so it's not just a rumour out there.

Lastly, we know we are a very proud nation, but we are a quirky country and not a lot of people understand what we're all about. We are proud, but we have rarely shown it. We don't come through with visible displays of pride.

The Winter Olympics taught me that my country can do that. This is one of the few times we have been proudly Canadian with the whole world watching.

Zoe Gillings
Zoe Gillings
Team GB snowboard cross competitor

I've learned how vital preparation is.

I had a good season last year but didn't get the right preparation over the summer, because of the funding problems. I did what I could with it and did everything I could on the day, but the whole time I was wishing I'd had better preparation.

Zoe Gillings
Gillings finished eighth after injuring herself during the snowboard cross

Here in Vancouver, the British Olympic Association has been great, with doctors, physiotherapists, ice baths and loads more help. If at all possible, I want to get all this stuff available throughout the season, not once every four years. That would make a big difference.

I've also been learning a lot about supporting my other team members. I like being part of a team - I'm usually the only Brit in snowboard cross so I'm left by myself.

Being surrounded by other Brits makes me feel like I've got that team behind me, and everybody's support. Quite a few Team GB members came to watch me, too.

The volunteers here have been awesome. There are loads of them, all really friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.

If London 2012 organisers do one thing, they should get the best people volunteering. Motivate them well, make sure they're enjoying it and are enthusiastic, and that'll make the experience better for the athletes and spectators.

Lord Sebastian Coe
Lord Sebastian Coe
Chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games

Vancouver is a city that has clearly embraced the Games in a way I've rarely witnessed in a sporting event.

I haven't been anywhere where there's been an empty seat effectively in the house, even in some of the earlier competitions where they've not been fighting out finals.

What is it you, as an organising committee, want to achieve? Primarily you want full stadiums, and you have that. And in those stadiums you want people who look like they want to be there, and you've got that.

There will be pressure on British athletes at London 2012, but the good athletes will deal with that

And then you want to know that the rest of the city has embraced it, and that's pretty evident. What I haven't witnessed here is live sites (designated areas for fans with parties, music and big screens) stuck in the middle of somewhere, like scaffolding. They've been absorbed and assimilated into the landscape.

You borrow the best you experience in the Games. If Beijing was about sport and venues, Vancouver has been about city operations, but we also want to create a Games that has the forensic eye for delivery in the way that Beijing did.

I want the party atmosphere that Sydney injected. I want the heart and the spirit of Barcelona. And I think we can sensibly add the city engagement that I've now witnessed here.

There will be pressure on British athletes at London 2012, but that's what the territory is. The good athletes will deal with that and the smart coaches will know how to work on that distance. That's the way it should be.

Sir Matthew Pinsent, Don Taylor and Zoe Gillings were speaking to BBC Sport's Ollie Williams. Lord Sebastian Coe was speaking in Vancouver prior to the closing ceremony.



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see also
In-depth interview - Jacques Rogge
27 Feb 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Team GB chiefs defend medal tally
25 Feb 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Williams slides to British gold
20 Feb 10 |  Skeleton
Olympic luger buried in Georgia
20 Feb 10 |  Europe
British media anger Olympic boss
18 Feb 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Canada secure historic gold medal
15 Feb 10 |  Freestyle skiing


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