“The Games will have an impact on the lives of Whistler residents, while the success of the Games will be achieved largely through community participation.”
– Investing in the Dream document
Since July 2, 2003, when the International Olympic Committee decided to award the 2010 Games to Vancouver and Whistler, Whistlerites have been trying to understand the logistics and find out relevant details so they could prepare themselves. Some have seen the Olympics as an opportunity, for themselves or their community; others have viewed the Games as a colossal black hole, consuming time, energy, money and everything else in its path.
While the continued lack of meaningful information about the Games — and the greed of some landlords — has increased the numbers in the latter camp, there’s never been any doubt that the Games will have an impact on Whistler residents. Nor has there been much doubt that the success of the Games, at least from Whistler’s point of view, will largely be shaped by community participation.
So 17 months before the show begins, and 48 years after the idea of hosting the Olympics in Whistler was first broached, it would seem reasonable to expect some details about the operational plans for the Games. But they weren’t there, again, when Whistler’s 2010 Games Office presented two Dream documents to council on Monday.
Investing in the Dream details the costs and benefits to Whistler of hosting the 2010 Olympics. There was considerable debate about what categories some of those costs and benefits should fall into, and whether they were Olympic expenses or things the municipality would have had to spend money on regardless of the Olympics. Accounting can involve almost as much interpretation as art but there is no doubt that Whistler has leveraged the Olympics to obtain many lasting improvements in infrastructure, resident housing and recreational facilities.
However, that’s not the issue for many people trying to prepare for the period of the Games.
Delivering the Dream is the second document, Version II of the Olympic strategic framework that was first unveiled in October 2006. In Version II, Whistler’s 11 strategic objectives for the Games have been aligned with the five priorities of Whistler 2020. The Games “are not an ‘end’ in themselves but rather a ‘catalyst’ that has the capacity to accelerate Whistler’s journey towards achieving its vision of becoming the premier mountain resort community — as it moves toward sustainability,” according to Delivering the Dream. A cynic might interpret this as the Olympic black hole being the catalyst for an even larger, denser black hole still to come. The Games, and the universe, are difficult concepts to wrap one’s head around.
If aligning Whistler’s strategic objectives for the Games with the Whistler 2020 priorities doesn’t excite you, there are 108 “deliverables” in Version II, and some of the “tactics” have been reclassified as “assumptions.”
Community engagement is one of the deliverables. The fact that it hasn’t been delivered, yet, was an issue for Councillor Tim Wake.
“We want to engage our community… and they haven’t seen even the first blush of the operational plans,” Wake said Monday.
“I feel we are behind in even the first draft of the operational plans. If we wait it may be too late for meaningful feedback.”
Wake said VANOC was primarily responsible for the lack of information that was delaying Whistler’s $500,000 community engagement program. That program will include a residents’ guide to the 2010 Olympics, but it won’t be released until some time in 2009.
Meanwhile, in 2008, some residents’ engagement with the Games has come in the form of eviction notices. A few landlords have stepped into the vacuum of relevant information from VANOC and Whistler and produced the most poignant bit of Games information a resident could receive: vacate the premises.
Councillor Gord McKeever echoed Councillor Wake’s concerns. “There is a fear of the unknown out there,” he said. “We need some images, we need the transportation plan.”
Whether VANOC is to blame for the lack of information, which has led to the lack of community engagement, or whether the municipality should answer for it is, in the end, a moot point. “…the success of the Games will be achieved largely through community participation.”