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VANOC goes on the offensive

Furlong, Pound respond to criticism


After a week of non-stop criticism from the media, some of it not completely accurate, Canadian IOC member Dick Pound and VANOC president John Furlong went on the counter-offensive last week.

At a press conference in Vancouver on Tuesday, Pound took a shot at the media:

"To say these Olympics are not well-organized, that they're not great and people aren't having a wonderful time is, quite frankly, silly," he said.

Specific media criticisms range from the glitches in the opening ceremonies to the chain link fence around the Olympic cauldron in Vancouver to the cancellation of standing room spectator tickets at Cypress due to the lack of snow. Some in the media have dubbed them the "Glitch Games."

"The Olympic gods are capricious,"said Pound, who has been to every Olympic Games since 1972. "You have ice and snow from the beginning of time until you get the Winter Games and you have heat waves, like we did in Calgary. It happens all the time."

Mark Adams, the communications director for the IOC, also came to the rescue. He took particular exception to some in the British press, which have been particularly brutal. Lawrence Donegan of the Guardian - tough on the Games before they even got underway - said the 2010 Winter Games were "the worst Games ever."

"You wonder which city they're reporting from," said Adams. "What they're saying bears absolutely no relation to what I've seen at the competitions. It's been amazing."

Another criticism the panel answered was in relation to the lack of French at the opening ceremonies and at the Games themselves - a minor controversy in Quebec that has been seized on by separatist groups as proof of the country's disdain for French. Pound suggested that the most vocal critic, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, would not have been satisifed with "100 per cent French."

In a separate press conference on Wednesday, Furlong handled questions about glitches, and told reporters to keep some perspective.

"There's thousands of things going on in the Olympic theatre and I think we should be talking about sport (and athletes).

"I've read some things that I didn't like reading and I don't believe are true or fair."

Furlong recited a long list of the things that are going right like sold-out events, record television audiences in Canada and around the world and rave reviews of the venues from spectators and athletes.

The list of negatives is long.

On the safety front, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, was killed at the Whistler sliding centre. The event went ahead with a lower start for the men and women. The controversy continued this week in the two-man luge when the Swiss bobsleigh team favoured to win the event crashed in training, resulting in a serious but non-life threatening injury to the brakeman. The other Swiss two-man bobsleigh team pulled out, citing the danger of the course.

Warm weather - and rain the first few days - has been an issue. At Cypress all standing room tickets for snowboarding and freestyle events were eventually cancelled and soft snow has been a bit of an issue at Whistler Olympic Park.

The alpine ski venue on Whistler Mountain has also received some criticism for the difficulty of the courses. The top athletes, however, defended the track and track crew, and most seemed glad to have an Olympic-calibre venue rather than a course made easier for the weaker skiers.

Whistler Olympic Park is also under the microscope since Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic slipped off the side of an icy curve in training and fell into a deep gully where she broke four ribs. She competed anyway and won bronze in the women's sprint - an event she was favoured to win. She was forced to pull out of other events. The Slovenian team is considering legal action against the Olympic organizers.

Spectators were also injured when a barricade collapsed at the Alexisonfire concert in Yaletown last week. Fans reportedly rushed the stage, collapsing the barrier and injuring 19. It has since been rebuilt and reinforced.

And the ice at the Richmond Oval is softer than organizers could have expected, as temperatures in the Lower Mainland crept into the double digits. To boot, an ice surfacing machine malfunctioned early in the competitions and created holes in the ice surface.

In Vancouver windows were smashed and property damaged during an opening day protest. There have also been sit-ins and a tent village was erected in a VANOC parking lot to bring attention the plight of homeless in Vancouver. However, there have also been huge, friendly crowds in the streets of Vancouver and Whistler Village every day and evening during the Games.

There have also been some minor security issues. There was the man who got within a stone's throw of U.S. vice-president Joe Biden using a homemade pass. And last week the Integrated Security unit announced that 11 members would be sent home - seven RCMP members and four members of the Canadian Forces for a variety of breaches. The ISU was quick to point out that more than 10,000 officers and military are with the ISU, and that the 11