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Accessibility of the Vancouver 2010 Games site – Follow up

Last updated on 23 August 2012

A look back on a question I posed to John Furlong (CEO of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games) and my thoughts on Mayor Sam Sullivan’s involvement with the closing ceremonies of the Torino 2006 Olympic games.

Back in May of 2004, I had a chance to ask John Furlong, CEO of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, about the current state of the official Vancouver 2010 Web site. To review, my questions to him were;

  1. Do you feel that the web site, which will be the main focus of Olympic and Paralympic information for the world, should meet at least the basic guidelines of accessibility?
  2. If your site did meet these basic requirements, what value would you find in promoting an accessible friendly web site?

To paraphrase from the last article;

"…Mr. Furlong’s assured me that the web site will certainly lead an example to the rest of the world. [O]nce a team is in place to look after the related tasks, certain guidelines will be followed. The site that you see right now will definitely change as the Olympics draw near."

from Crazy Bat Designs – News item of 20 May 2004

With the current winter games coming to a close and the torch being passed on to Vancouver, I decided to pay another visit to the Vancouver 2010 site to see the current state of things. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few changes. Some of the things that jumped out at me were the following;

The Good

  • CSS validates
  • Primary language is defined for both English and French versions of the site.
  • One Accesskey is in use (It’s ’13’ though)
  • A text-only version of the site available
  • Alternate CSSs are available at the top and the bottom of the document. (Not on the home page, oddly enough)
  • RSS feed available (Doesn’t validate as of yet)
  • Alternate content for those with JavaScript disabled

The bad

  • 22 validation errors on the home page. (Including No DOCTYPE defined)
  • One CSS for all media, which results in content being cut off when printing
  • Heavy dependency on JavaScript (Although the user is given a message and a link to the text version of the site, it’s still not the most usable)
  • A few form elements are missing their respective labels
  • Tables are still being used for layout in some cases
  • Some inline styling
  • Non-breaking space abuse
  • Semantics aren’t the greatest. (Example: Heading 2 is used for a title in the content area, but also for a ‘More Featured Stories’ link and a survey question within the heading 1 for ‘Upcoming Events’. No lists are used for main navigation.)
  • Meta data for the English page indicates that it is the ‘Version Francais’
  • The home page itself is a little plump at over 100k
  • Some words that precede the ‘more’ link don’t make sense. (Example: ‘announcemen’)
  • Scripts could probably use some consolidation
  • CSS selectors could be a bit more semantic (Example: .leftContent, .small, .strong. What if .leftContent is moved to the right? What if .small is big? What if .strong is not so strong?
  • Most title elements on the site are the same.
  • Absolutely no title attributes

As you can see, there is more work to be done. However, I can see that there is definitely an improvement to the site from the previous state the Vancouver 2010 site was in. As it was said;

"…never good enough."

John Furlong, CEO of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games – 19 May 2004, Morgan Creek Golf and Country Club. Surrey

As time goes on, I shall look forward to the further improvements to the site and vow to report on any significant changes.

Accessibility and the Olympics

Along the lines of accessibility, I was keenly interested in seeing the closing ceremonies for the Torino 2006 Olympic games. I had heard of the tradition of the Olympic flag being passed from the mayor of the current host city (Torino, Italy) to the mayor of the future host city (Vancouver, British Columbia). Mayor Sam Sullivan is the current mayor of Vancouver who would be the one to receive the Olympic flag.

What you might not know is that Mr. Sullivan is a quadriplegic, due to a skiing accident that had broken his neck at the age of 19. This fact has caused quite the media buzz in Canada, and even in the United States over speculation of how Mayor Sullivan will be able to receive the flag.

For me, it wasn’t so much the modification of Mayor Sullivan’s wheelchair that fascinated me so, but the fact that this is the most exposure that accessibility has received at the Olympic games, from what I can recall. Form seeing recent interviews, Mayor Sullivan has promised to raise the awareness of the Paralympics. For this, I am very interested in what will result in the near future and leading up to 2010.

I also have to admire Mayor Sullivan for his sense of humour as well. My favourite quote;

"Why would Vancouver send its worst skier to represent it at the Winter Olympics?"

Mayor Sam Sullivan

I certainly wish Mayor Sullivan the best of luck in bringing the Paralympics more into line with the attention of the Olympics as I think there is much work to be done to bridge the gap. In my opinion, the Olympics are suppose to be a symbol of the world coming together. Why then are the games separated as they are and why is it that the athletes do not come out together?

In terms of the games being separated, I understand the reasons behind the different events for people with different abilities, but I cannot understand why the games aren’t held at the same time? If there is years of planning by the cities that are bidding on the games to come up with the timelines to host both games, then why not accommodate them as one true Olympic games?

As for the athletes not coming in together, this I have never understood. I would think that the idea is that there is one country, one team. Shouldn’t the team include both Olympic and Paralympic athletes?

If Mayor Sullivan is intending to bring more focus on the Paralympic games, I sincerely hope that he is in the mind set of bringing all athletes closer together as a team. I think that if he can take advantage of the momentum that has created the recent media buzz with the closing ceremonies in Turin and the passing of the Olympic flag, then that would be the first step in the right direction.

Time will tell.


(Marco Battilana) (


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