POSTED: July 11th 2009

Japanese royals visit Vancouver 2010

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT / Sports Features Communications

RICHMOND: Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko gained a taste of the Vancouver Winter Olympics spirit by stopping off in Richmond to visit the Olympic Oval speed skating venue. They had been visiting Ontario earlier in the week on their Canadian tour.

The Imperial couple was escorted by Canada's Prime Minister Gordon Campbell on a visit to skating venue where they were greeted by a First Nations Witness Ceremony.

A speed skating exhibition was staged so they could see the rink come to life. They were also met by many aspiring hockey players who gave them souvenirs and about 500 Canadians of Japanese descent who were thrilled with the opportunity to share with them the Games anticipation.

The witness ceremony was led by Larry Grant, an elder of the Musqueam First Nation, who said: "We call witnesses to be the keeper of our history … We do this when historical events are significant and because our traditions are oral. We recognize the importance of conducting business and maintaining relationships face to face.”

Sport in action

John Furlong, the president of VANOC, met them in the oval and introduced them to members of the Canadian speed skating team. They also met cycling and speed skating Olympian Clara Hughes while Nicole Garrido and Olympian Shannon Rempel lapped the rink so the royal visitors could see the sport in action.

Afterwards the couple listened to a 50 member choir of Richmond students performing Field of Spirit. A group of Richmond hockey players, including a number of the Richmond Sockeyes and some of the local girls’ hockey team players, presented them with keepsake Vancouver 2010 pins.

The couple will travel on to Victoria next on their Canadian tour. It marked the Emperor's first official visit since 1953 and was in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of Canada's initial diplomatic mission to Japan.

At the same time the Tokyo 2016 bid team was busy in Berlin, Germany at the International Paralympic Day celebrations on the campaign trail. There are 82 days and counting until the final vote in Copenhagen at the IOC Session and Congress.

Tokyo is vying against Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Keywords · VANOC · Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko · Premier Gordon Campbell · Larry Grant · First Nation

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