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Vancouver streets abuzz approaching Grey Cup kickoff

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VANCOUVER - The bars outside BC Place are packed and lineups are forming at the venue's entrances as 52,000 fans prepare to watch the 99th Grey Cup.

The Canadian Football League between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and B.C. Lions has electrified the east end of downtown Vancouver, where every second or third human being is wearing some form of team colours or jerseys. The Lions, Bombers, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders dominate the display of plumage.

It's standing-room only on Beatty Street, which has been converted into a pedestrian mall for the duration of the weekend. The street is crowded with food vendors, portapotties and scalpers offering Cup tickets at inflated prices.

For example, Winnipeg fan Andrew Hargreaves and a friend paid a total of $1,100 for lower-bowl seats at the 40 yard line.

Bomber fan Rob Ferrand, however, was holding off on a purchase 90 minutes before game time, as he hoped prices will approach face value.

"I think it's going to be a good game. There's too much history behind the team (this season) for us not to win the game," said Ferrand, a veteran of several Grey Cups.

"I'd like to be like 1990 and be over in the first quarter. But that's not how it is this year. It'll be a heart attack the whole way through."

Most Lions fans, of course, believe the hometown squad will prevail.

"I don't think it's going to be that close. I think we'll take it by 10 points," said Lions fan Craig Lien, who's decked out in an orange wig.

"This is a muich better team than the Bombers saw early in the season. (B.C. quarterback Travis) Lulay is very confident and our defence has improved a lot, too."

Inside BC Place, there's little evidence of any problems associated with leaks in the stadium's new roof. Vancouver was sunny and 8 C 90 minutes before the start of the game.

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