One month ago, Izumi Inoue had no illusions about whether she and her husband would go to any of the Whistler Olympic events.
With one toddler and one infant to care for, buying tickets was a luxury she couldn't afford.
"I never even looked into the price of the tickets because we knew we couldn't afford it," said Inoue from her Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) apartment in Creekside.
"With two little kids, we needed babysitters, plus there was a lot of other hassle. We were more annoyed about hosting the Olympics here than we were excited, with all the regulations."
But Inoue's perspective did a 180 two weeks ago, when she became one of the recipients of the 1,700 Olympic tickets that the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) distributed free to people throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor.
"It was about a week or two ago when I received the e-mail from the WHA," said Inoue last week. "It is amazing because I never thought I would go to watch the events. I thought, 'Wow,' this is so great that they offer such a thing."
Now, Inoue is thrilled to witness the upcoming Winter Olympics first hand, and she and her family will be in the stands on Whistler Mountain during one of the alpine skiing events.
"I am just so grateful that we have this opportunity, because not everyone does. A lot of my friends are in the same boat and we are just lucky to have this."
Over the past few months, VANOC has been working with about eight community service groups in the Sea to Sky corridor to give Olympic tickets to people who wouldn't be able to go to the Games otherwise, through a program called Celebrate 2010.
Tickets encompass men's and women's alpine skiing, bobsleigh, luge, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and skeleton at the Olympics, as well as tickets to Paralympic events.
Ken Money from Sea to Sky Community Services was thrilled this week to get 35 tickets for adults with developmental disabilities.
"They were kind of surprised when we offered them tickets," said Money about the 12 clients in the organization's Life Skills Program who will get tickets to the Games. The other tickets will go to chaperones. "They had hoped to go but weren't sure if they were going."
Many of his clients are regular sports fans and have gone to professional and lower level hockey games as well as participated in Operation Track Shoes in Victoria, B.C.
"We are really thankful for the tickets," said Money. "I understand it would have been expensive if we were to pay for them, and the donation was awesome."
Another 35 tickets will go to children and youth in care, their caregivers and their families in the Sea to Sky corridor through the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.
And Whistler Community Services Society has received 350 tickets that they are distributing on Jan. 28 and 29 to people who have already been selected for the Celebrate 2010 program.
"Basically, it is a wide range of people that we have managed to touch with this gift, across the board for various reasons," said Lorna van Straaten from the Whistler Community Services Society. She added that most tickets have gone to children and youth and their families. "The bottom line is the community is definitely benefiting from this program."
Last week Donna Wilson, executive vice president for people and sustainability for VANOC, said she is pleased about how the tickets have been distributed through local community programs.
"We have been happy that organizations did contact us, and we think they represent the community very well," said Wilson. "VANOC is here to put on the Games, but we are not as good at knowing how to distribute in the communities to make sure we get to those people who would really need and enjoy the tickets."
Groups that distributed the tickets include Sea to Sky Community Services Society, Whistler Community Services Society, Whistler Housing Authority, Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, Rotary Club of Whistler, Pemberton Community Centre, Mount Currie Band and the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.