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Olympics-Vancouver erupts into cheers after Olympic vote
( 2003-07-03 09:22) (Reuters)

Ten thousand people broke a tense silence and erupted into wild cheers at an early-morning rally in Vancouver on Wednesday after their city was selected to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Many in the crowd had been holding their breath for the announcement from the International Olympic Committee session in Prague, some praying, some biting their nails.

"I was a little nervous there a few seconds before the announcement but I thought we were going to get it," said Rick Whitfield, who was one of the 10,000 who had gathered at GM Place, the city's main hockey arena.

The celebration had the feel of an international sporting event. Many in the crowd waved small Canadian flags as deafening fireworks exploded inside the arena after the announcement. Cars in the city's downtown area honked their horns.

Vancouver nosed out South Korea's Pyeongchang and Salzburg of Austria for the right to host the Games.

Vancouver, Canada's third-largest city, and Salzburg were viewed as front-runners in the contest, so there was a buzz of surprise in the crowd when Salzburg was eliminated on the first ballot.

Vancouver edged out Pyeongchang by three votes on the second ballot.

Canada's "Sea to Sky" bid calls for holding ice-oriented events in the sea-level Pacific Coast city, known more for rain than snow in the winter. Most ski events will be held in the mountain resort community of Whistler, about 125 km away.

The winding highway linking Vancouver and Whistler was seen as a weak point in the city's C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) bid but the British Columbia provincial government has vowed to spend C$600 million to upgrade the road.

Vancouver attempted unsuccessfully to get the 1976 Winter Games and the effort behind the current bid began five years ago among local officials who saw it as a way to stimulate the area's economy.

The potential economic boost was on the minds of many in the arena on Wednesday and others saw it as a way to unite different cultures within the Vancouver area, which has a population of about two million people.

"I like to think it will bring people more together to share their city with the world," said Jacklyn Allen, of Victoria, British Columbia.

Local opponents of the Vancouver bid warned it will end up costing taxpayers far more than organizers have predicted, and leaders of opposition to the bid made a last-minute push to persuade the IOC to vote against Canada.

Canada last hosted a Winter Olympics in 1988 in Calgary, Alberta. Vancouver's win probably ends any hope Toronto had of winning the 2012 Summer Games. Toronto bid for the 2008 Summer Games but lost to Beijing. 

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