Opinion » Editorial


With the Nagano Olympics coming to an end last weekend, and Tourism Vancouver officials returning from Japan full of optimism about a Vancouver/Whistler bid for the 2010 Games, it’s starting to look like 1960 again. It was the 1960 Games at Squaw Valley, of course, which were the inspiration for Whistler. After Anne Heggtveit won the gold medal in the women’s slalom at Squaw Valley, Sidney Dawes, founder of the Canadian Olympic Association and the only Canadian on the International Olympic Committee, flew to Vancouver to check out sites in Garibaldi Park for a bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics. It was on March 2, 1960, 38 years ago this week, that Dawes and a group of local skiers flew by helicopter, first to Diamond Head and Mount Garibaldi, which Dawes judged unsuitable, then to London Mountain, known locally as Whistler Mountain. The results of that trip are part of our history. Vancouver businessmen formed two organizations, the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association and the Garibaldi Lift Company, to pursue the Games and to build Whistler Mountain. While the lift company was obviously successful, the Canadian Olympic Association backed Banff’s bid for the 1968 Olympics over GODA. Banff then lost to Grenoble, France. Some of the reasons for developing "Garibaldi," as the Whistler Mountain development was originally referred to, are almost ironic from a 1998 perspective. A 1964 Province editorial calling for the provincial government to open up Garibaldi Park for recreation opportunities said in part: "It was estimated in 1961 that British Columbians spent $2.4 million a year at U.S. winter resorts such as Mount Baker, Mount Hood and Sun Valley. And as local facilities become more and more overcrowded this loss to B.C. increases. "Development of Garibaldi would not only recover much of this spending by Canadians but undoubtedly attract thousands of American skiers — and millions of dollars — to B.C. "The benefits through sale of accommodation, equipment and services would make the opening of Garibaldi not a luxury but a wise investment that would grow more valuable each year." Obviously those early 1960s goals have been left in the dust as Whistler has grown beyond anyone’s imagination. And fortunately the provincial government hasn’t "opened up" Garibaldi Park or turned it over to the federal government to develop, as some people were suggesting they do. So the question today, following the Nagano Olympics, is why should we want the 2010 Games? The legacy of sports facilities is one reason given. The benefits of Calgary hosting the 1988 Games were reflected in the record 15 medals won by Canadians at Nagano, specifically the long track speed skating medals and the bobsleigh medal. A successful Vancouver-Whistler bid would mean more sporting facilities for Vancouver than for Whistler, but improvements in transportation and housing facilities might be part of the legacy package for Whistler — although both issues have to be addressed long before 2010. Another reason for hosting the Olympics is an intangible sense of pride and purpose the Games seem to create among the population of the host cities. But the real reason for the Vancouver-Whistler bid is the boost to tourism in B.C. that the Olympics would provide. It happened before, with Expo 86, and tourism officials would like to see it happen again. Maybe this is reason enough to support an Olympic bid. Perhaps Vancouver and Whistler and the corporations of B.C. have a duty to the rest of the province to try to boost tourism by hosting the Olympics. If that’s the case, let’s be clear about why this bid is moving forward.