Sports

Olympic Oval remains a lasting legacy of the 2010 Games

By Don Fennell

Published 4:22 PST, Mon February 24, 2020

Last Updated: 10:35 PDT, Tue March 17, 2020

They were 16 days that helped shape a nation.

Ten years ago, the Olympic Winter Games were playing out in Vancouver/Whistler, evoking a sense of pride uncommon among typically reserved Canadians.

Richmond was also front and centre during the 2010 Games. A spectacular new Richmond Olympic Oval hosted the excitement of long track speed skating, at which Canadians enthusiastically mingled with—and among—fans from around the world. An orange wave—replete with Dutch oom-pah bands—helped to set the tone before each race.

It was thought that Vancouver’s low altitude (a mere three metres above sea level) and high humidity 

would mean no records would be set during the speed skating competitions, which took place at the oval between Feb. 13 and 27, 2010. But Dutch star Sven Kramer (favoured to win three gold medals) quickly quashed that theory when he strode to victory in the 5,000 metres in an Olympic record 6:14.60. He also crossed the finish line first in the 10,000 metres, only to be disqualified for incorrectly changing lanes during one of the later laps.

Haralds Silovs of Latvia became the first athlete at a Games to participate in both short track and long track speed skating, and the first to compete in two different disciplines on the same day. He competed in the 5,000 metre skate and then raced across town to the 1,500 metre event held at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum.

For Canadians, speed skating at the oval was a consistent opportunity to cheer our athletes to medal results. Christine Nesbitt led the parade to the podium with a gold-medal performance in the women’s 1,000 metres, while Kristina Groves emerged with both a silver (1,500 metres) and bronze (3,000 metres). Legendary Clara Hughes wrapped up her decorated Olympic career —which included her becoming the first Canadian to also compete in the Summer Olympics in cycling— with a bronze at 5,000 metres.

The men also contributed to Canada’s medal haul, with Mathieu Giroux, Lucas Makowsky and Denny Morrison combining for gold in the team pursuit.

The Games may have been 10 years ago, but the Richmond Olympic Oval remains as vibrant as it did back then. Thanks to visionary thinking, the venue has been converted from a speed skating rink to a multi-sport complex that includes two Olympic-sized ice hockey rinks, two running tracks, a climbing wall, and areas designated for basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, table tennis and a myriad of other activities. It has truly become an Olympic legacy.

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