By Andrew Mitchell
The last time Russia hosted an Olympic event, the world was a very different place. It was the Moscow Summer Games of 1980, and some 24 countries boycotted, including the U.S., because of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had just invaded Afghanistan.
On Wednedsay, July 4, at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) congress in Guatemala, delegates voted to send the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to Russia, to the resort town of Sochi. The Russian bid beat out the bid by Salzburg, Austria in the first round of voting, and the PyeongChang, Republic of Korea bid in the second round.
The Russian bid will substantially rebuild Russia’s winter sports industry, as well as the Black Sea city of Sochi, creating lasting sports legacies for the country.
Whistler’s Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners has had a hand in developing ski resorts in the region since 2000, and in 2005 helped to develop a concept to allow those resorts to host the Winter Games. That concept became Russia’s bid.
“We’ve been watching the IOC meeting online, as this is the first time they’ve broadcast the voting over the Internet, and when we heard the announcement we’ve been doing rounds of high fives and handshakes,” said Ecosign president Paul Mathews.
Although he is partial, Mathews believes that the best bid won.
“The Sochi bid is excellent,” he said. “What’s interesting is that we kind of stole the idea from Vancouver and Whistler, because Sochi is on the Black Sea. Without the Vancouver-Whistler bid, we wouldn’t of thought of a sea and mountains cluster for Russia, with the ice events by the sea and the snow events in the nearby mountains.”
The ski resorts are closer to Sochi than Whistler is to Vancouver, between 40 and 50 km, and may be connected by a high-speed train. The highway, recently upgraded, was only expanded from one to two lanes.
Now that the Olympics have been confirmed for 2014, Mathews says the design and building process will be kicked into high gear.
“The Olympic Games will move everything quicker, we’ll have the funding in place a lot sooner and timelines will have to be kept,” he said. “Of course the market for the resorts will pick up quickly with three or four new ski areas down there, and all kinds of properties planned.”
This is the fourth successful Olympic and Paralympic bid that Ecosign has been involved with, including Calgary in 1988, Salt Lake City in 2002, and Vancouver in 2010.
“I guess we’re a lucky charm for this thing,” said Mathews.