Opinion » Editorial


Very few details of the proposed Vancouver-Whistler bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics have been worked out, but there is only two months for public discussion of the concept before an application must be submitted to the Canadian Olympic Association. That’s not much time to contemplate an event that is 12 years away but which would most definitely shape Whistler’s future. A few of the details we do know about the proposal spearheaded by former Canucks and Grizzlies owner Arthur Griffiths and Tourism Vancouver’s Rick Antonson: it’s expected to cost $750,000 to win the COA’s endorsement, with Calgary and Quebec City the likely rivals; it’s estimated it will take $15 million and three years of wooing, schmoozing and convincing International Olympic Committee delegates prior to winning the right to host the Games; one estimate put the cost of staging the games at $800 million, with the provincial and federal governments likely to contribute $100 million to that total; the timing is apparently good for a Canadian bid for the Winter Olympics, although if Toronto wins the right to host the 2008 Summer Games it’s unlikely the winter version two years later would also go to Canada; the long-term benefits of hosting the Olympics, in addition to the exposure, would be some sort of legacy for Whistler and Vancouver. Whistler already hosts World Cup ski races, freestyle and snowboard events — and will be hosting the 2001 freestyle world championship. So, unlike Vancouver, which would likely host most of the events other than skiing and snowboarding, there wouldn’t be a huge legacy of sports facilities left behind in the Whistler Valley. There would be improvements to the Whistler venues and perhaps enhanced training facilities. The bigger legacy, at this point, is expected to be in the form of transportation systems and perhaps housing — although as the Whistler 2002 document and the people working on the transportation master plan both suggest, significant steps toward dealing with these issues must be taken in the next year, not by 2010. An athletes village, for perhaps 800-1,000 athletes, will be required in Whistler for the two weeks of the Olympics. That might be a temporary facility, taken down after the Games, but more likely it would be permanent and converted to something else after everyone has left, perhaps a hostel (as was done in Innsbruck) or part of a university campus. Transportation may be the more intriguing legacy. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly has suggested the Olympics might be the incentive for the province to fund a high-speed rail line between Vancouver and Whistler, thus providing an alternative to the growing problem of too many automobiles on an antiquated Highway 99 and too little space to drive or park those cars in the Whistler Valley. But even if a viable commuter rail link between Vancouver and Whistler was established a year or two prior to the 2010 Games, Whistler can’t wait until then for a solution to its transportation problems. There may be huge, once in a lifetime opportunities that go with a successful Olympic bid, but we have to also consider what sort of needs Whistler will have by 2010. And we only have until March to make our feelings known.