Opinion » Editorial


Watching the Games from the sidelines



The Olympic Games were never going to drop money into our bank accounts and opportunities into our lap. It was always a case of taking ownership of this event and making something out of it. And while this is finally starting to dawn on some, the opportunities for Whistler and for British Columbia are still being eroded because we haven’t really assessed our own best interests within this matrix.

We learned a couple of months ago that the IOC, following its analysis of the Torino Olympics, wants another 350 beds in the athletes’ village being built in Whistler. Those extra beds are estimated to cost between $10 and $20 million.

The number of beds planned for the Whistler athletes’ village was determined following analysis of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The IOC accepted that figure when it awarded the Games to Vancouver and Whistler in July of 2003. Between the 2002 and 2006 Games the only Winter Olympic events that were added to the program and that will be held in Whistler in 2010 were the men’s and women’s mass-start biathlons — events that are likely to be contested by athletes already competing in other biathlon competitions.

In other words, there were no new events added that will bring more athletes to Whistler. The rationale for why another 350 beds are required at a cost of up to $20 million has not been explained. That those extra beds may have an impact on Whistler’s housing market and its overall community plan doesn’t appear to have been considered.

Last week the International Olympic Press Commission rejected plans to house some media covering events in Whistler on a cruise ship docked in Squamish. The first question that comes to mind is: Who is the International Olympic Press Commission to decide where the media is going to stay? The Olympics are a package tour and the cruise ship accommodation is part of the package. If you want to upgrade, book some place else yourself.

Accommodation in Whistler for the Games is already a headache due to the fact that nearly every hotel is strata-titled. To reserve rooms needed for the Olympics means getting a commitment from the owner of each unit about what they want to do with their condo for a specific period three and a half years from now.

Some owners, no doubt, see this as an opportunity to hold out as long as they can and hope the price they are offered goes up. Others, perhaps frustrated with the tax classification issue or the matter of who controls the front desk in their building, may see this as their opportunity to have their grievances dealt with, and therefore are in no hurry to commit to the Olympic pool.