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Mayor sees Olympic challenges first hand

Size of Summer Games almost overwhelming; O’Reilly relieved to be hosting Winter Games

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And yet, if hundreds of people were phoning for car reservations, it could be a frustrating and time consuming process.

"I think the other big, big advantage that we have is the working language of the Olympics is English," he said.

But challenges aside, O’Reilly also had time to take in some of the sites.

He attended the diving finals, the swimming finals and the men’s and women’s team preliminaries for gymnastics. He also had time to flex his own muscles.

One morning at 5:30 a few delegates hopped a taxi to the city of Marathon. There they began to run the course of the original marathon back to Athens. They were planning to do the marathon over a three day period.

But after the first 10 kilometres and two hours in the ever-burning sun, the group stopped for Greek coffee and called it a day.

The sidewalk had run out and had turned into busy city streets. They decided it just wasn’t safe to continue.

"It’s almost unfortunate that they didn’t put a trail," said the mayor.

"I think a lot of tourists would do that (the original marathon route), just walk it even."

Indeed, he tried to think about things from a tourist’s point of view when he was in Athens.

Though he could get a car through his International Olympic Committee accreditation, O’Reilly explored the subway system and took a turn on the buses.

What he discovered was that way-finding in Athens was difficult.

"I never really ever found a map that explained where things were and how you got in and out of venues," he said.

"I think that’s important."

Municipal Administrator Jim Godfrey has now replaced O’Reilly in Athens. Deputy Administrator Bill Barratt and General Manager of Community Initiatives Mike Vance will travel there after Godfrey.

Jan Jansen, the project manager of Whistler venues, will go to Athens for the Paralympic Games.

The mayor said this transfer of knowledge program that municipal staff is participating in will be invaluable in the lead up to the 2010 Games.

He explained that staff will be behind the scenes, and going through the operations in Athens to see how things work.

"The transfer (of knowledge) program is set up for the three Games coming up – Torino, Beijing and ourselves," said O’Reilly.

"We’re really fortunate because we’re getting probably the most significant amount of training at the earliest stages that any Games has ever had.