Opinion » Editorial


One year later...



"The only way to overcome is to hang in."

Dan O'Brien, former Olympic Decathlon athlete


"I think the way to become the best is just to have fun"

Shaun White, Olympic snowboarding champion




It hardly seems possible that a year has passed since Whistler hosted the world for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics.

For Whistler it was the culmination of a dream to host the Games, a dream that preceded even the first lift going in.

It's not as if the founding fathers or most of the residents went around talking about how to get the Games here as a regular thing. But the hope was a catalyst to so many of the changes we have seen here.

Most know some version of the story - the launching of the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association in 1960, which morphed into Garibaldi Lifts in 1965, all with the hope of hosting the 1968 Games.

There were five more attempts to win the Games before 5,000 people gathered in Village Square on July 2, 2003 finally heard what they wanted - they had won the right to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

I remember standing there, digital recorder in one hand, waiting for the news. I kept telling myself it didn't matter what the outcome was, I was there to get a story. But when we heard the words Vancouver and Whistler I went just as crazy as everyone else - for a few minutes anyway.

I knew Whistler would never be the same, and we are not.

While our vision of being the #1 ski resort is strong the passion of being a Games host motivated all of us.

Even those who did not embrace the event hoped that it would help the resort in the future.

With a recession hitting most of Whistler's traditional markets hard it's hard to know what affect the Games have really had. Would we be worse off if we hadn't hosted them, or better?

Would the RMOW still be in such a tough financial situation if we hadn't spent so much as a Games partner?

One can't ignore the financial tools that came out of the Games but nailing down costs versus benefits is rather like playing the magic cup game with the real dollar figure moving between cups.

Last March Tourism Whistler's Barrett Fisher said: "Post-Games we do believe we will see some pent up demand.

"We look at the Games as a platform. Then how are we going to use this as a launch pad for looking forward?"

Said Whistler Chamber of Commerce President Fiona Famulak, also last March: "It would certainly be the hope that the exposure Whistler received over the Games translates into years and years of great summer and winter occupancy rates."

High hopes, but so far that's not the reality for many. In chatting with a bed and breakfast owner recently I learned this was the worst season they have had for many years.

However, a recent Tourism Whistler survey showed that awareness of the resort has doubled in some markets. The problem now is not making sure people know about the resort, it's convincing them to spend their travel dollars to come here at a time when vacations are way down the list of priorities for most people.

Added to this challenge is the viral spread of news about the alleged botched euthanization of up to 100 sled dogs here last April, which broke recently in the media.

It is likely that for months every time a prospective vacationer does an Internet search of Whistler that story will come up. It's hard to gauge what effect that might have.

Added to that is the fact the story will not leave the headlines for weeks or months as dog walks in solidarity are reported, a provincial government task force on the issue reports back and it's likely, come thaw, the mass grave where the sled dogs were buried will be dug up.

This weekend Whistler will try and put the story behind it, at least for a little while.

It will shake off the grim reaper's cloak and put on its party shoes to re-capture that Olympic feeling with concerts at Millennium Place, a trip down memory lane at the museum and activities at the legacy venues.

Surely this is the image Whistler wants the world to see. This is what we are, what we do.

While economic reality means there won't be big free outdoor concerts in town - there will be cake - that decade-long symbol residents and visitors have shared for every countdown.

As you enjoy your slice think back on your Games memories, re-live the sheer excitement of being an Olympic host and winning gold medals for Canada right here.

Because as Fisher said recently, if we focus on passion and celebration, people will come.