Host Olympic cities receive major coverage resulting in loads of free publicity when they stage either a Summer or Winter Olympic Games.  But surrounding communities and regions also hope to benefit from their proximity.  VOA is in Vancouver covering the Winter Olympics and visited a special exhibit showcasing regions across British Colombia.

It's called B.C. Street.  B.C., of course, is short for British Colombia, the Canadian province in which Vancouver is located.

B.C. Street is a group of seven pavilions representing 82 communities throughout British Colombia.  It's located near the Olympics venue for long track speed skating in Richmond, about a 30-minute drive south from downtown Vancouver.

"It's the opportunity for these communities to engage with all the guests that are here experiencing the Olympic Games," said Laura Ballance, the Communications Director for B.C. Street.   "A lot of these communities are far outside of the venue cities of Whistler, Vancouver and Richmond.  So this is their opportunity to show off the best of their region to all these Olympic guests."

Balance told VOA that the popularity of B.C. Street has greatly exceeded expectations.

"Nobody has ever done a community showcase at the Olympics before," she said. "So we thought, well, if we can get a thousand people a day through, that would really be a great showcase of our communities, but we're getting a thousand people an hour, 10 to 12,000 people a day through here."

Balance knows that it does not hurt that visitors get to have free samples from the communities.

"A lot of these regions, being a coastal province, we have some of the world's best shellfish and fishing," said Ballance. "A lot of British Colombia is known for that.  We're giving away smoked salmon, oysters samples, all sorts of artisan foods and cheeses.  The Cariboo district is sampling birch syrup and birch toffee."

John Fraser is the mayor of the District of Tofino, which is in the middle of Vancouver Island on the west coast, and the terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway.  It has 1,600 full-time residents, but in the summer months the population swells to about 20,000.

Fraser told VOA that hospitality is his district's number-one business.

"We have a community that has five or six beaches, open ocean," said John Fraser. "We have miles and miles of inlets in behind us for kayaking and sailing.  Sport fishing is fantastic.  There's bear watching.  There's hot springs tours.  There's whales all over the place."

Mayor Fraser was handing out samples of smoked salmon.  And while he said his booth on B.C. Street was not necessarily an advertisement for tourism, he hopes - like others displaying their regions on B.C. Street at these Olympics - it will inspire visitors from around the world to one day visit his community.