The Olympic torch may have left Vancouver more than a year ago, but the 2010 Winter Olympic Games did not leave the Canadian city untouched. The 729 million Canadian dollars that Vancouver spent preparing for the Olympics will continue to benefit visitors for years to come.
The most buzzed-about Olympic remnant is the Richmond Oval, which opened for public use in August and housed the Olympic speed-skating events just over a year ago. Home to two ice rinks, 18 badminton courts and 10 regulation-size basketball courts, the complex is one of the only legacy buildings - Olympic facilities built specifically to remain after the Games end - that hosted competition. The other, Hillcrest Park, was used as a curling competition facility and has since been converted into a state-of-the-art aquatic centre. Trout Lake Ice Rink, used for Olympic athlete training last year, was also converted into a regulation-size NHL hockey rink.
Should visitors want to stop by the Richmond Oval, located 14 km outside Vancouver, they can take advantage of the newly expanded, Olympics-inspired Canada Line light-rail transit route, which connects Richmond to downtown Vancouver and the airport.
Dozens of public art installations that were originally commissioned for the Games continue to dot city streets and sidewalks. Vancouver has kept eight legacy public art sites, selected from more than 400 submissions by artists from around the world. Two of the best are "Ice Lights", a light-installation at Vancouver City Hall that looks like ice framing the historic building, and "The Birds", a pair of larger-than-life bird sculptures that once stood sentry at the site of the Olympic Village and now roost at the Southeast False Creek Plaza.
Since many of the events took place on Whistler's slopes, Olympic infrastructure improvements also made quick day-trips to Whistler feasible. The Sea-to-Sky Parkway, the stretch of Highway 99 that connects Vancouver to Whistler, got a $600-million face lift to ease Olympic transportation between the two sites. For years, rock slides plagued the road, resulting in an average 574 accidents per year from 1998 to 2004. But with a massive investment in structural engineering, the road has been transformed into a safer and faster route to Canada's top skiing destination; the trip can be made in less than two hours. To opt-out of the drive and catch panoramic views of the scenery, the Sea-to-Sky Climb train travels the same route in three hours.
Whistler has seen its own post-Olympics renaissance. The Athlete's Village has been transformed into HI-Whistler, a top-notch hostel facility with a café, game room and plenty of storage space for snowboards and skis (rates begin at $85 per night). Be sure to stop by the Roundhouse Lodge, at the top of Whistler mountain, to check out its Olympic Legacy display, which includes such prized memorabilia as Swiss Olympian Didier Defago's gold medal winning Rossignol skis and a wood-carved replica of the medals podium - where every athlete, no matter how skilled, can snap a photograph of a personal Olympic moment.