One of the skills most people acquire through years of formal education, be it elementary and high school, university, vocational college, technical school or other institutions, is to prepare for an exam. This isn't a skill we all learn equally well, as the performances of most of us in exams would indicate. But we've all been through the exam process in one form or another and we usually have a sense of how we are going to do prior to the exam.
Whistler, which used to flaunt its pedigree as one of the most educated communities in the country, is about to face an exam. The gut feeling is that we're going to do pretty well on next month's test, but there's always the possibility of a trick question, an unforeseen wrinkle that causes pre-exam nervousness.
There's tremendous pressure to be ready for this exam because how we do will determine, to some extent, our direction for years to come.
Not everyone is going to take this test. Some are auditing this course Whistler has been on for the last several years and will skip the final. That's fine. A case can be made that there is too much emphasis on this final exam and that it's what we learn and how we carry ourselves on a day-to-day basis, rather than over one 17-day period, that really matters.
However Whistler, as a community, has no choice but to go through with this exam. Like the student who has known all his life he wanted to become a doctor or a lawyer, Whistler has been preparing for this moment practically from the day it was born.
So, are we ready? Many people are so ready, so tired of preparing they just want to get it over with. But a pop quiz last fall left some questions. When Doug Lipp spoke to chamber of commerce members at the launch of the Spirit program he asked several people about the names of the Olympic mascots, Quatchi, Sumi and Miga, and what they represented (a sasquatch; an animal spirit with the hat of an orca whale, the wings of a thunderbird and the legs of a bear; a sea bear). No one could give him the full answer.
"Most (people) were very, very accommodating," said Lipp. "I was just surprised at a negative level, as I mentioned in my presentation, that some didn't know some basics about the Olympics, which are going to be commonly asked questions and that they and their team should get those pretty well nailed before the onslaught in February."
The former Disney executive probably has a better sense of the value of mascots than most of us, but his point was clear: many of us think we know all about the Olympics because we've lived through years of preparation, but we may be surprised at what we don't know and what others may expect from us. We know what we want to know, not necessarily what we need to know, or what others may expect us to know.
For instance, we all know about the nightly music and entertainment in the medals plaza and other areas of the village during the Games, but what about the theatrical performances going on at Lost Lake? First Nations art and culture will be on display at every Olympic venue and incorporated into many performances, but do we know what's going on inside the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre? Who won the alpine World Cup races on Whistler in 2008, the test events for the Olympics? Have you been to the Whistler Museum and Archives' new exhibit and would you recommend it to visitors as an introduction to Whistler's history?
The grading for this exam will be done by outsiders. A passing grade would be those people, or people they talk to, returning to Whistler.