The 2010 Winter Games are just around the corner, and at Google, we're getting pretty excited.

Last week we shared some maps of local experts' favorite locations in and around Vancouver with the help from our Google Canada team. Today we've introduced photorealistic 3D building models for all nine venues of the Winter Games. Producing these models is a multi-step process involving both aerial and ground-based imagery.

Before we could begin we needed to obtain high quality aerial imagery for the Vancouver region. The new aerial imagery, now available in Google Earth and Google Maps, is pretty amazing, and provides a close-up look at this beautiful region. We then obtained ground-based photos of all nine venues. The combined ground-based images and aerial imagery are then used to construct highly detailed photorealistic 3D building models for the venues. All the models were developed by hand using SketchUp. As you'll see, we modeled everything from the gondolas to the spectator bleachers. We even included 3D trees to add a bit more realism. We'll be making a few more improvements prior to the commencement of the Games, but you can begin touring this beautiful area of the world via Google Earth today.

My personal favorites are the Whistler and Cypress Mountain ski areas. Whistler will host the alpine skiing events, and the Whistler Sliding Centre will host bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton events. Cypress will host all of the freestyle skiing and snowboarding competitions: moguls, aerials, ski cross, half-pipe, snowboard cross and parallel giant slalom.

Whistler Creekside, Vancouver, BC

The best part? You can leave the winter parka in the closet, throw a log on the fire, and visit the games from the comfort of your home. I'll be watching closely, and rooting for Team USA!