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Olympic decision too close for comfort



PRAGUE — Gerhard Heiberg, the Norwegian head of the IOC team that evaluated the three candidates to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, had a feeling.

"Yes," he said moments after the IOC members awarded the 2010 Games to Vancouver-Whistler by a narrow 56-53 vote over Pyeongchang, Korea on Wednesday, "I had a feeling for how things would end.

"I expected (the result) for the last couple of days. Of course I didn’t know (for sure) but I had expected that this would be the result."

International Olympic Committee members voted twice in Prague, with Salzburg getting dropped from the second ballot. Heiberg wouldn't say how he voted.

But the final result was too close for most of the members of the Vancouver-Whistler team.

"I thought I kept myself fairly well under control – until Hugh O'Reilly hugged me with tears streaming down his face," said MLA Ted Nebbeling, the provincial minister responsible for the bid.

"And then we were both balling our eyes out. It's unbelievable. You have to experience it."

"Unbelievable" was also the first word out of Mayor O'Reilly's mouth.

"You know, it was so close," he said.

"Those guys made such a great bid, at the last minute I was really worried. And when Salzburg came out I went, 'Oh my god', because they were the front runners.

"It’s just unbelievable. We are going to host the Winter Olympics in our community – we had that vision in the ’60s, and now we're going to realize it, 50 years later. That is unbelievable. I'm still stunned."

Olympic medallist and champion downhill racer Steve Podborski has been in some close battles in his ski racing career, but few have been tighter than this Olympic vote.

"It's hard to say if anything’s been tighter than this," said Podborski. "Although I have to say that (it doesn’t matter if) you win by a little or you win by a lot, just as long as you win. In downhill skiing I've won by hundredths of a second and by half a second. This goes into the former category."

But one man who wasn't surprised by the result was IOC President Jacques Rogge.

"Obviously the best bid won," Rogge said at a press conference following the announcement, held in Prague's Hilton Hotel.

Rogge said an Olympic bid is ultimately about people, rather than bricks and mortar, and the Vancouver bid reflected that.

The Austrian delegation, which included Podborski’s old rival Franz Klammer, was stunned to have garnered only 16 votes on the first ballot. But Podborski said the Vancouver-Whistler victory wasn’t about settling scores with an old rival.

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