While much of the world is focused on anthrax and events in Afghanistan, two items dominated discussion at Mondays meeting of Whistler council: the Olympic bid and the gates guarding Spruce Grove/White Gold and Blueberry Hill/Beaver Lane.
The Olympic bid, which unlike the gates is significant to Whistlers future, came up when council received a letter from several members of the community asking for a referendum on the bid. (The letter is on page 5 in this weeks Pique).
Its been nearly three years since Vancouver-Whistler was chosen by the Canadian Olympic Association to develop Canadas bid for the 2010 Games. A public meeting was held in Whistler last year to discuss the bid generally. But its only 13 months to the next municipal election and 15 months until the bid has to be submitted to the IOC and some very fundamental questions about what the bid will look like still havent been answered.
And although phone surveys have found support for the bid, many people still want a say or a vote on the most basic question: Do we want the Olympics in Whistler? The response Monday was interesting.
Mayor Hugh OReilly said hed talked to some of the people whose names are on the letter and found some are in favour of the bid and some are concerned about it. He took exception to the suggestion that the people involved in the Olympic bid are not elected representatives, pointing out that Whistler council members are elected and are "fully engaged" in the bid process.
But the main purpose of the letter was to request a referendum on the Olympic bid. There appeared to be little support for one among councillors.
A more relevant question, OReilly suggested, was what was the bid going to deliver? There are approximately 40 committees working on various aspects of the bid and they should finally be able to bring some definition to the bid in the next few months.
"It might be on the ballot next November (when the 2002 municipal elections are held)," OReilly said, "but what the bid looks like, those discussions will be held before then I feel the referendum wont be needed by the time the bid is developed."
Whistler is working on the bid within the guiding principles it adopted following last years public meeting, OReilly pointed out. "I think we may be a little annoying to our partners (in the bid process), but I think weve done a tremendous job representing our community."
OReilly said the Olympic bid has pushed Squamish, Whistler and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District to examine what their communities will look like in 20 years and to plan for the future.
Counc. Kristi Wells said the community needs to focus on assessing the opportunity the Olympics represent. "We need a long-term view, for Whistler, for the province and the country."
Wells said Whistler is not that well known outside of the ski world and pointed out that the ski industry is at best holding steady, but may in fact be in decline. Given the present economic climate, the increasing competition from other resorts and other leisure opportunities, "We are in a precarious position. If it isnt the Olympics its going to need to be something else," she said.
Wells admitted it hasnt been easy to get information about what the bid will look like, which creates speculation. "I think the general feeling out there is we havent had a say." But she said suggestions the bid was already a done deal are false.
"Theres a lot of chance this wont go forward because technically it may be it cant be done within our guiding principles," Wells concluded.
Counc. Nick Davies agreed with much of Wells comments, except her assessment that theres a good chance the bid cant be done within the guiding principles. "Thats not my feeling. I think theres a lot of chance we can do it," Davies said.
"If someone asked me if I support the Olympic bid today I couldnt answer. I dont know what it means," Counc. Ken Melamed said. But he added a lot of big questions should be answered by next spring.
"Its the hardest thing to win and the easiest thing to lose," OReilly concluded. He encouraged everyone to "stick with us, be patient, and by the third quarter of 2002 well know what the bid looks like."
Oh, and the gates? Theyll be around for a while but phased out next year and replaced by traffic calming measures. Except at Blueberry Hill, where the gates will remain closed during peak periods of traffic.