-With Files from Alison Taylor -
With 160 people attending Whistler’s first Olympic town hall meeting, it’s safe to say that Whistlerites are definitely interested in the 2010 Games.
Whether locals have enough “Olympic spirit” is another debate.
Jennifer Erickson, a 35-year Whistler resident, punctuated Saturday’s meeting when she told council she did not think there was enough enthusiasm around town for the Games.
“This is not so much a question as a plea to the council for some kind of outreach to make this our Olympics,” said Erickson.
“There is a level of un-involvement in the community that I think is scary,” she said.
Her appeal to council was the final question of the night and was met with strong applause from the audience.
In the heated discussion that followed, most of the councillors stated they do not think Whistler Olympic spirit was missing.
“The town of Torino did not wake up to the Olympics until the second day of the Games,” said Mayor Ken Melamed.
“It is going to be so intense you won’t be able to stand it. I am so not worried,” he said.
Councillor Ralph Forsyth added: “I cannot imagine not being super excited about the Games."
But Councillor Bob Lorriman agreed with Erickson, saying he has noticed the community seems to be detached.
Lorriman was told back in the bid phase that there are several cycles a town goes through from when the Games are first announced to when they occur.
“Maybe we are just going through some of those swings,” said Lorriman.
“I think it is a great thing as a community to keep on our minds,” he added.
The intense four-hour meeting at MY Millennium Place saw people packed into the theatre seats, spilling out into the stairways and standing in the nosebleeds.
Topics covered ranged from transportation, to venue operations, to how much the Olympics will cost Whistler.
And the public’s attention span never faltered, with a constant stream of questions directed at VANOC, the mayor, and councillors. Some questions were asked out of general interest, others were laced with concern and emotion.
Outside the theatre, more people mingled as they discussed their opinions on topics covered at the meeting.
MY Millennium Place was also properly dressed up Whistler’s first-ever town hall meeting on the Olympics, with a model of the Athlete’s Village at the entrance, posters, and information booklets scattered throughout the facility.