Opinion » Editorial


World championship bids supersede any Olympic bids If it wasn’t for a few visionaries who had a dream of bringing the Olympics to British Columbia, Whistler might not have developed as a ski area. The Olympic dream, of course, was never realized but Whistler has probably become far bigger and more successful as a winter and summer resort than it would have been if had hosted the 1968 or 1976 Winter Games. The timing of the village’s and Blackcomb’s development, along with Intrawest’s emergence, investment markets and other factors have all played a role in determining what Whistler is today. Whistler doesn’t have a legacy of Olympic facilities — which would have included such white elephants as a bobsled track, but also would have brought at least one skating rink to town decades before the Meadow Park Arena was finally built — but it can compete with any mountain resort in the world in terms of lifts, hotels, mountain terrain and resort amenities. Building new sports facilities in the Lower Mainland is apparently one of the principal motives for the group which announced earlier this month it was contemplating a bid to secure the 2008 Summer Olympics for Vancouver. The announcement was given a cool reception by Tourism Vancouver and Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen, who suggested a bid for the 2010 Winter Games might be more appropriate. Either bid would apparently involve Whistler hosting some events. Few details have been presented because a bid for either Olympics is just at the concept stage, but issues such as transportation, security and housing — issues that received a lot of attention for the wrong reasons at last summer’s Atlanta Games — would have significant impacts on Whistler and Vancouver because of the size and scope of the Olympics. But before anyone gets too excited about the thought of Whistler hosting Olympic events, consider some of the other events Whistler is bidding for. In May the FIS will award both the 1999 World Snowboarding Championships and the 2001 World Freestyle Championships. Whistler has strong bids in for both. As well, last year when former mayor Ted Nebbeling secured a long-term commitment from the FIS for Whistler to host men’s downhill races annually, the FIS suggested Whistler also bid for the 2003 or 2005 World Alpine Skiing Championships. Mark Taylor of the Masters Group recently returned from the snowboard world championships and the alpine world championships, both of which were held in Italy. Taylor says the snowboard world championships are about equal to an alpine World Cup race in terms of media exposure and sponsorship dollars. The World Alpine Skiing Championships are about ten times the size of a regular alpine World Cup race. The point being that, long before the Olympics come to town, there is a good chance — several chances — Whistler may be hosting major international championships. These are larger than regular World Cup events but they won’t require a four-lane highway between Whistler and Vancouver. Moreover, these are mountain sports, for which facilities already exist, and which will draw an audience specifically interested in mountain sports and mountain resorts. The Olympics may have been what gave birth to Whistler, but do they fit with Whistler in the next century?