In the first days after Vancouver and Whistler were awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics, in July 2003, it was frequently said how so much of the infrastructure and so many of the Olympic venues were already in place that there was lots of time to work out the details of the Games.
Indeed, many of the Olympic venues hosted test events last winter and all of the venues are now complete, more than one year ahead of the opening ceremonies.
But 13 months prior to the start of the Games there are still a lot of details to finalize. And suddenly a rush to get some of them done.
Take the TCUPS bylaw — please.
Virtually the last act of the last council was to give first and second reading to the bylaw that would create temporary commercial use permits. The bylaw was enacted to prepare for the large number of temporary uses that VANOC, and other Olympic-related agencies, may have during the Games. These could include outhouses, media tents, food stands, accommodation and retail outlets. Jacqui Murdoch, VANOC’s vice president of services and accommodation, told Pique that when the bylaw is finalized details of the VANOC process would be announced.
The bylaw was given first two readings on Nov. 17, with only Councillor Eckhard Zeidler opposed. On Dec. 1 the new council was sworn in. On Dec. 9 there was an open house on the bylaw. A public hearing took place on Dec. 15 and then a special council meeting was called for Dec. 23 to consider giving the bylaw third reading.
As anyone who’s followed this knows by now, the bylaw was not voted on because councillors were rightly concerned VANOC may be trampling Whistler’s interests in order to save money and appease sponsors. Specifically, VANOC is considering removing the nightly medals presentations from Celebration Plaza in the village as a cost-saving measure. There is also concern over VANOC’s plans for a retail and food outlets in Whistler, which would be direct competition for Whistler businesses.
Officially, the reason for expediting the TCUPs bylaw is VANOC needs to secure accommodation for Olympic volunteers and workers, as well as some media. And apparently it needs to get this accommodation wrapped up by early February.
Accommodation in Whistler has been a problem for VANOC for some time. Because most Whistler hotels are strata-titled, and the owners don’t need to make their units available more than 12 months in advance, rounding up accommodation has been like herding cats. Tourism Whistler, VANOC and the municipality recognized the issue last year, and began making overtures to property owners and property managers, to little avail. Early in the summer Tourism Whistler called a members meeting to try and explain the situation: National Olympic committees, media organizations and sponsors were all making their accommodation plans by the end of summer or early fall. Vancouver was offering significantly cheaper accommodation. Whistler property owners had to act.