Opinion » Editorial


Whistler will get to know OCOG in 2004


If spam was a four-letter word we learned to live with in 2003, OCOG may be the four-letter word of 2004, at least around these parts.

We may not receive 20, 30, 100 messages a day from OCOG this year, but the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games will prove to be as ubiquitous as spam for Whistlerites by the end of 2004.

Being awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics last July 2 will still turn out to be of huge benefit to this province, I believe, but there are a lot of decisions to be made prior to the Games, which will be on us in 73 months.

OCOG's mandate, we note again, is to deliver the best Games possible and to do it on budget. That's the standard taxpayers across B.C. and Canada will hold OCOG and its yet-to-be-named CEO to. Whistler, which will have to live with OCOG on a day-to-day basis, may have a few more requests. Let's start with the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan.

As the CSP moves into the third year of its genesis we are awaiting the results of the public feedback on the five scenarios - or rather, the public feedback and the staff interpretation of that feedback. This might take longer than expected; one reason being that there was far more opposition to building in the Callaghan valley than anticipated.

For Whistler, the issue is not so black and white that it comes down to a simple choice between the Callaghan and infill housing, but it is for OCOG. They just want to know where to build the athletes village and then get on with it. The bid book said the athletes village would be in the Callaghan, so that's the premise they are working from right now.

And that was the premise municipal hall was working from as well, at least until feedback on the five scenarios started rolling in. Municipal staff hadn't even done a full evaluation of potential infill sites for an athletes village until last month.

The Olympic specifications for an athletes village require a sizeable chunk of land, where facilities for housing and feeding 2,500 people can be built. More importantly, security - the eight-letter word of 2004 - requirements are such that the athletes village can't be integrated into existing neighbourhoods quite the same way that employee and resident housing projects have been. For these reasons the Callaghan valley was the simple solution for the athletes village.

But a lot of Whistlerites think otherwise, because it's not just an athletes village and an Olympic Games we are planning for. Enough people have questioned the Callaghan scenario that municipal hall is now giving some consideration to an infill site for the athletes village. It may require some private land, and therefore wouldn't be as neat and clean as using Crown land provided by the province, but it might also fit in with some of Whistler's other plans.

We refer here to the transportation plan, which called for future residential developments on existing bus routes and suggested some small commercial/service centres in areas outside the village. A gas station, a liquor store, a small grocery store north of the village would, according to the transportation study, significantly reduce traffic congestion in the valley.

If - a big two-letter word - this turns out to be Whistler's preferred scenario we are probably going to have to convince OCOG that this is the way to go. That may require a concerted effort; an unequivocal message delivered over and over again. It should start very soon and we shouldn't waver from it.

Any hint of an ambiguous message, delivered in April when the CSP process is supposed to come to its merciful end, is unlikely to sway OCOG. By that time it will have to start making some decisions. Its mandate is clear, and Bill 75, the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, is available if OCOG feels it is needed.

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