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Editorial

Plenty of Games, fewer answers

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Will preparations for the Olympics be an issue in the fall when campaigning for municipal councils and school trustee positions gets underway in earnest?

Not likely, although some people in Whistler may hold a grudge over the Lot 1/9 decision. Regardless, the Olympics are happening, it’s much too late to make an issue of them. If voters were concerned about the Olympics they should have spoken up in 2002, when Whistler’s council of the day voted in favour of bidding for the Games after a long evening of public discussion at the Chateau Whistler.

Or they could have made the Olympics an issue in the 2005 election, when the council of the day was grappling with the ice rink decision.

The 2008 elections are just 15 months before the opening ceremonies for the Olympics. By then everything will have been decided and it will be pointless even discussing what local politicians and school trustees should be working to achieve through the Olympics.

That’s roughly the perspective most of us have when the Olympics and this fall’s elections come to mind. But as Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said at a town hall meeting this week, “They still haven’t figured it out.”

Sturdy was referring to VANOC and the logistical details of the 2010 Games. Sturdy said Pemberton has asked VANOC if Pembertonians will be able to drive the highway to Whistler during the Olympics. VANOC doesn’t have an answer yet.

But answers are coming. On May 21 VANOC issued a statement on its website that suggested British Columbians are going to be showered with “public engagement programs” in the fall. For instance, VANOC announced ticket sales for Games events begin Oct. 3, rather than Oct. 11. The torch relay route will be announced in the fall, public tours of the Whistler Sliding Centre will begin later this month, the look of the Games will be unveiled in the fall, and the Vancouver2010 website will be redesigned in September.

If that doesn’t satisfy your appetite for Olympic details, VANOC also announced Game Plan 2008.

“VANOC, together with its partners, is developing plans to visit Games-region communities to hold stakeholder meetings…” at an as yet unspecified date. “… the purpose of the meetings is to continue dialoguing with key stakeholders and citizens so they can better understand the day-to-day operations of the Games and what they may experience if they live and work in a Games-venue neighbourhood. A series of 2010 Winter Games information sessions will continue through 2009, and until Games time, offering an increasing level of operational detail to stakeholders and citizens as the Games approach.”

Details of the Game Plan sessions will be announced “in the coming months.”

The Resort Municipality of Whistler has similar documents and has issued similar statements promising more information. April’s report from municipal staff to council promised there would be an update on Whistler’s 11 strategic objectives and 130 key deliverables for the Games. Moreover, “The Operational Delivery Plans are being refined to ensure that the RMOW Games planning and execution is aligned with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) Master Schedule.” It sounds impressive, but Whistler voters might ask why Whistler’s ODP isn’t being tailored to meet Whistler’s needs.

This is not to suggest that all preparations for the Olympics have wound up as acronyms floating in a sea of bureaucratize. Anyone interested in the venues for the Games was able to ski the very impressive Nordic centre all winter; they can now see the buildings taking shape in the athletes’ village; they have been able to ski the alpine courses and take advantage of the snowmaking; and later this month, they will get to see the sliding centre. So the Olympic venues are becoming tangible, and that in itself is generating some interest in the Games.

But hosting the Olympics is still an abstract concept to most of us. Everyone knows what the Olympics look like on TV, but fewer of us have experienced them. And we’re not getting a lot of insight into what to prepare for.

The point was made by Drew Meredith at Pemberton’s town hall meeting, and by Park City’s Myles Rademan in this week’s Alta States column, that it isn’t anyone’s job to present opportunities to people in the Sea to Sky corridor or to answer all their concerns. VANOC is busy building venues, making sure the Olympic events run smoothly and look good on television, and the Olympic family is well cared for. In doing that, VANOC will have needs and meeting those needs may put some money in some people’s pockets. But the logistical details of moving around the corridor and who and how many people will be staying here are things that, in Sturdy’s words, “they still haven’t figured out.”

So perhaps corridor residents should fill this void by figuring out what they want during the Olympics and what they need to know about the Games. And then in the fall, vote for candidates who can provide answers or will be proactive in seeking them.

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