Opinion » Editorial


What Whistler found under the Christmas tree


In terms of early Christmas presents for Whistler, this week's announcements by the 2010 Bid Corporation sit somewhere between the promise an absentee parent might make to a child to do better next year and a lump of coal.

Not that the Olympic bid should be seen as some sort of holiday where Whistler is showered with all kinds of gifts, but the announcement that the official bid - and the Games themselves, should the bid be successful - will be known as the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games stings a little bit. A promise of more details about the Whistler portion of the bid early in the new year is also disappointing.

Olympic bid COO John Furlong made public this week what many inside the bid must have known for some time, that "Whistler" would not be part of the official bid name. It's one of the International Olympic Committee's rules; officially the Olympics are hosted by one city, and that city is the one where the opening and closing ceremonies are held. Hence the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The 2010 Bid Corporation made several efforts to include Whistler as part of the name but the IOC wouldn't budge. However, Furlong told Whistler councillors Monday that Whistler was essential to the bid and that Whistler's name carried a mystique that would help offset rival bids. He noted that Kitzb├╝hel is playing the same role in Salzburg's bid for the 2010 Games.

Furlong also suggested people watch how Park City is presented at the Salt Lake City Olympics in February for an example of how a venue host's profile can grow within the Olympics. It should also be noted that Park City will only host some of the alpine ski and snowboard events, whereas Whistler would host all the alpine ski and snowboard events.

What impact will the name change have? Who can guess? Whistler certainly is crucial to the bid. A Quebec delegate at the 1998 Canadian Olympic Association meeting in Toronto, where the Vancouver-Whistler bid was chosen over bids from Calgary and Quebec City, remarked that Vancouver isn't a winter city. Whistler is a winter town, he acknowledged, but he suggested a winter culture - which of course Quebec City has - was essential to winning the Winter Olympics.

That's one of the reasons the 2010 Bid Corporation will be promoting Whistler as part of the bid in everything it does, save for the official bid name. All promotional material will refer to Vancouver and Whistler as host communities and the new logo, to be unveiled next month, will reference the Sea to Sky area.

Still, one of the main reasons officials from Tourism Whistler and the municipality have given for supporting the bid is to increase Whistler's international profile, particularly among non-skiers, and bring new business. If the bid is successful and the world watches Olympic skiing and snowboarding competitions in Whistler in 2010 that will be the case. But for most people around the world the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games bid isn't going to spur them to vacation in Whistler. How many people know that the downhill races at the Salt Lake City Olympics will be held at Snow Basin, near Ogden? After the Games they may know the Snow Basin name, but prior to the Olympics..

On the plus side, the name change may finally get Lower Mainland media to stop referring to the "Whistler Olympics."

Furlong also talked about providing details about the Olympic bid early in the new year. "People are asking questions and don't feel like they know nearly enough about the bid - this has to end," he told council.

Exactly. Mr. Furlong, bid CEO Jack Poole and the rest of the Bid Corporation have a lot of work ahead of them in convincing many Whistlerites of the virtues of bringing the Games here. That may be even more difficult with this week's news that Whistler's name won't officially be part of the bid.

As Christmas presents go, the Bid Corporation delivered a dud. Here's hoping for more timely, relevant information in the new year.