After more than six years of preparation for the Olympics, much of it where the only visible measure of the Games approaching was construction on the Sea to Sky Highway, there is suddenly a flurry of activity and changes.
While VANOC has rightly been praised for getting the Olympic venues completed a year or two in advance of the Games, the Whistler facilities have mostly been out of sight and out of mind. Over the last two winters cross-country skiers have found the wonderful Nordic centre in the Callaghan Valley, but the bobsled track and athletes village were generally off limits to the public, except during special events or exploratory mountain bike rides.
These were the physical and occasionally visible manifestations of the Olympics in the Whistler area. Until now.
In the last four months before February 2010 - and the last month before snow covers the valley - the intensity has ramped up, and the decisions and physical alterations have become impossible to ignore.
A few weeks ago there was a parade of trucks carrying temporary housing units up the highway, part of the military camp that has sprouted up in the Cal-Cheak area. Last week's military exercises were hard to miss with the helicopters flying overhead at various times during the day and at night. Next week's Exercise Gold will be the military's largest and final training exercise prior to the Games. Following that exercise Whistlerites and Canadian soldiers will settle into a winter together. Men and women in military fatigues will be seen regularly in the village, alongside athletes from foreign countries dressed in their national uniforms.
More temporary housing units will be coming, as the private security firm Contemporary Security Canada builds a village for 1,600 of its staff at Rainbow. These private security personnel, many of whom come from First Nations, will have their B.C. Security Professionals Licences and will complete a RCMP-approved training program. During the Games they will be under the direction of the RCMP.
Traffic flows and traffic restrictions during the Games are starting to register with people, after the release earlier this month of the updated Olympic transportation plan and the appearance of paint (!) and reflective sticks on the highway between Function Junction and the village. In a one-road town, keeping vehicles moving requires careful detailed planning. But elements of security are also woven into the plan.
Maps showing the location of the Swiss House, the Slovenian hospitality suite, television broadcast locations and various other special event sites in the village were published in both local papers a couple of weeks ago. And we're starting to understand the level of activity that will be going on in the village each night during the Olympics. Most deliveries to village businesses are expected to take place between midnight and 6 a.m. Reporters and television crews will be up at all hours filing updates to meet deadlines in various time zones around the world. With the medal ceremonies wrapping up at 11 each evening spectators will be wandering through the village after midnight - and if a Janyk or an Osborne-Paradis wins a medal the celebrations may go on until dawn.