By Alison Taylor
There was some surprise and confusion from Whistler’s Olympic strategists Monday as council barely approved an agreement that will allow the municipality to use official Olympic logos.
“This is a real plus for Whistler in terms of what we’ve been able to negotiate,” explained Whistler’s executive director of the Games Jim Godfrey.
“This is a real benefit to us.”
But council was cautious and apprehensive as it considered an agreement with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games. The agreement sets out the parameters for the municipality’s use of the official Olympic and Paralympic marks, including the prized Olympic rings.
The municipality can use those marks, along with the words “Whistler Host Mountain Resort,” on things like business cards, letterhead, banners, signage, staff apparel and uniforms. Each application requires VANOC approval.
The concern from several members of council was a lack of clarity around the issue, compounded by the recent news that VANOC was trademarking a vast range of phrases, including “Sea to Sky”, “2010” and “winter”.
Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden questioned how the sweeping list would affect Whistler’s ability to do business, as well as that of other resort companies.
“I’m going to admit that I’m very uncomfortable about this,” she said, adding that she would like a council workshop on the issue.
She pointed to recent editorials in newspapers commenting on the far-reaching list of VANOC’s trademarked words.
If it’s draconian, she said, then council should direct Godfrey, one of two people representing Whistler at the VANOC board, to do something about it.
VANOC has said it is trademarking the words as part of its obligation to its commercial partners and to ensure the Olympic brand is not diluted.
Councillors Ralph Forsyth and Eckhard Zeidler echoed Wilhelm-Morden’s concerns about the lack of clarity on the issue, and asked council to consider the agreement at the next meeting.
Despite assurances from Godfrey and Sharon Fugman, the manager of Whistler’s 2010 Games Office, that the trademarking and the use of the logos were two separate and distinct issues, the three councillors voted against approval of the agreement.
Mayor Ken Melamed urged council to consider staff’s assurances on the issue and explained that VANOC was trying to work with the resort municipality to maximize its exposure from the Games.
“I sense a mistrust of VANOC that I don’t know is justified,” said the mayor.
Forsyth clarified his position. He did not mistrust VANOC or staff; he was simply confused about the issue.
Council approved the agreement with a 4 to 3 vote.
The use of the term “Host Mountain Resort” is a first in Olympic history and represents several years of negotiations to ensure Whistler has a significant presence in the Games.
Tourism Whistler will also be entering into an agreement with VANOC to use the same logo.