December 8 - Rick Hansen (pictured), the world-renowned wheelchair athlete, has been named as one of eight honorary Mayors of the Olympic Village who will greet athletes when they arrive in Vancouver next year for the Winter Olympics, it has been announced.


Hansen, who raised C$26 million (£15 million) during his Man in Motion tour around the world in 1985 during which he logged over 40,000 kilometres (25,000 miles) through 34 countries on four continents before crossing Canada, won six Paralympic medals in 1980 and 1984.


The 52-year-old, who is now President and chief executive of the Rick Hansen Foundation, will be joined by Olympic silver medallist in rowing Tricia Smith as the voluntary village Mayor for Vancouver, while former freestyle aerial skier Anna Fraser Sproule and Alan Kristmanson, a former member of the national men's basketball team who competed at the 1988 Games in Seoul, will handle duties in Whistler.


Dr. Douglas Clement, a University of British Columbia sports medicine professor and member of the Order of Canada, and his wife Diane Clement, who competed for Canada as a sprinter at the 1956 Melbourne Games, will act as voluntary Mayors in Vancouver for the Paralympic Games, while four-time Paralympian Marni Abbott-Peter and three-time Paralympian Patrick Anderson will greet athletes in Whistler.


John Furlong, the chief executive of Vancouver 2010, said: "Each of the men and women named today as Village Mayors for the 2010 Winter Games will add an inspirational presence in these homes away from home for the athletes and officials who will start competing here in less than 70 days.


"They were selected based on their background in sport, their dedication to community and their unwavering support for the 2010 Winter Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.


"These Mayors understand the thrills, as well as the pressures, of competing on the world stage - many of them have competed and won medals at past Olympic and Paralympic Games.


"They know the importance of creating a warm, inviting and stress-free environment where the world's best winter athletes can successfully focus on fulfilling their dreams and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow Olympians and Paralympians in one of the friendliest countries in the world."


Hansen says that as a competitor in past Games, he knows how important it is for competitors to have a welcoming place to stay.


He said: "It's a great honour to be chosen to represent Canada as a village mayor at the 2010 Winter Games.


"As a competitor at past Games, I know how important it is for the athletes and officials - our guests - to have a welcoming place to stay while competing.


"It's our role as Village Mayors to make sure the thousands of athletes who will be here will indeed feel this is a real home away from home for them where they can be inspired to reach their dreams in 2010."


Both Athletes' Villages during the Games will be on par in population and services offered with a small Canadian village or town.


They will also represent a microcosm of the world's many cultures, languages and experiences and be a safe and relaxing place where lifelong friendships are made.


The Villages, which are both located near competition venues and the heart of the city and resort, will each offer a café, village store, banking, post office, tourism information office, and village living room where athletes can work out, relax in the games centre and listen to live music in the lounge or watch the Games live on TV.


They will also house 24-hour polyclinics where athletes can receive primary and emergency medicine and trauma care, a full range of therapy services, dentistry, nutrition, and optometry services among others.


Multi-faith centres are also available with separate rooms for formal religious services and ceremonies, as well as individual meditation and counselling.


All services are provided by Vancouver 2010's workforce, both paid and volunteer.


Hansen said: "You never know where it goes from here, but once you start down a journey, anything is possible."