Whistler: ready for the Games at the top of the Sea-to-Sky Highway

Whistler, one of the sites of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is a two-hour drive from Vancouver along the switchback-filled Sea-to-Sky Highway. The distance between the venues makes this year's Winter Olympics two virtually separate events.

Don Emmert/AFP
The Sea-to-Sky Highway, seen here near Squamish, British Columbia, connects Vancouver and Whistler, the two hub towns of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

I've just arrived at the site of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. We're climbing into the mountains of British Columbia, and the bus is swaying as it negotiates the switchbacks of the new Sea-to-Sky highway that's supposed to expedite travel between Vancouver and Whistler, which is more than two hours away. The distance between the two venues makes this year's Winter Olympics two virtually separate events.

Over the next three weeks, my colleague Mark Sappenfield and I will report numerous times a day from both spots. We'll look at everything from alpine skiing and ice hockey to figure skating and snowboarding. And, of course, the much-loved curling. We'll also share with you the stories that unfold off the rinks and away from the slopes as thousand of people gather for these awe-inspiring quadrennial endeavors. You can check out our stories and blogs here, and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/chrstacasebryant or twitter.com/csmonitoronline.

The Olympics are such a massive undertaking now that you need the infrastructure of a major city – thus creating the need for two separate hubs, one with thoroughfares and the other with ski trails and serious elevation. The intimate days of Lake Placid are over. It can sometimes feel as if the Games have become such a monolith that the raw beauty and purity is gone.

But the Olympic spirit isn’t restricted to or even defined by its outward trappings – the lycra, helmets, hi-tech sleds, corporate sponsorships, and media blitz.

As I wrote in a 2002 essay, shortly after giving up my own dreams of competing as a cross-country skier in the Olympics

There is motivation behind training for the Olympics that - at least for some athletes - has nothing to do with medals or money. There are goals
toward which performance-enhancing drugs cannot contribute. And there are accomplishments that clocks and judges and crowds may hint at, but do not
always accurately assess. All stem from the essence of the Olympic Games: citius, altius, fortius. Swifter, higher, stronger: the driving force of the Olympic spirit….
On dusty Kenyan roads and rugged Norwegian hillsides, Olympic hopefuls are
imbibing this spirit 365 days a year, glistening with sweat unseen by any TV camera or approving crowd. One-thousandth of a second may be all that will

keep them from becoming an Olympian someday, but the experience itself will be a rudder for excellence throughout their lives regardless of their

At the heart of it, the ancient Olympic motto has as much to do with daily life as it does with athletics. It's not something to be put in a box
and showcased every four years. It's not something reserved for the physically elite. It's an attitude toward life, a commitment to press on -
no matter what the challenges at hand - with courage, conviction, and dedication.

For the full essay, click here.

Follow Christa on Twitter as she tweets live from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

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