If you are not among the lucky ones that are going to the spectacular country of Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics, get out the hot chocolate, popcorn, candy and other goodies and get ready for some excitement and beautiful scenery. British Columbia, Canada, is home to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games from February 12 through 28, and the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 through 21. Host venue cities are Vancouver, Whistler, and Richmond. The official torch is already crossing Canada.
Officials have been preparing for months, and Canadians are excited to welcome athletes and fans from all over the world. The government is taking serious precautions with safety, health and security concerns for all visitors and athletes, as well as their own citizens.
One of the health issues is the spread of the H1N1 virus. The World Health Organization is sending a representative to monitor for potential disease outbreaks, but officials feel the threat has passed. However, British Columbia health officials have been planning for the possible impact it would have on the games since before the pandemic was declared in June. In their planning, they decided to keep a large supply of antiviral drugs on hand, just in case.
To avoid a major outbreak, the best practices are to continue with these sanitary protocols: washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, and when sick, don’t get out in public. Persons traveling to the games need to be watchful for exposure to sick persons, and not touch surfaces if they can keep from it. Those with children should be extra cautious in protecting them from the illness. Keeping hand sanitizer in ones’ bag or purse will serve as a reminder to keep your hands clean. First and foremost, persons planning to attend need to get both the seasonal flu shot and H1N1 shot. Hopefully, the athletes will have had theirs. More than 100 staffers of the U.S. Olympic Committee are getting their H1N1 vaccines before they head to Vancouver. Athletes are saying there may be more “elbow bumps” than hand shaking this time!
The Canadian organizers of the games have contingency plans for staffing should the virus affect regular staff members. A security team of 750 officers will be on stand-by in case of illness or emergency. There is a pool of volunteers that can be ready in short-order time. Although they can’t make it a requirement, all staff members and volunteers have been asked to take the vaccine. Many teams are arriving this month, and will have the opportunity to take the vaccine in time for it to be effective, if they haven’t already taken it. Public health nurses will be at the athletes’ villages, as well as venues, including hotels where officials and sponsors will stay to monitor for illnesses.
We wish the country of Canada much success in keeping athletes, their families, and all the visitors to the Olympics both safe and well. There are many security issues that they are dealing with, as well as health concerns. With the very best athletes representing their home countries, this is a time for focusing the eyes of the world toward the good sportsmanship that is displayed by those who have worked so very hard to achieve their goals. We wish good traveling and health to all those who are fortunate to attend these Winter Olympics, in addition to the excitement of seeing the true beauty of Canada.