Whistler's effort to join Vancouver in a bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics is an ambitious attempt that, if successful, will transform the region for better and for worse.
The Bid Committee, local governments and the public should be carefully assessing whether the prestige and benefits of hosting the Games are worth the tremendous expense, civic effort and upheaval.
While the Bid Committee has gone all out to enlist and recruit anyone who has ever put on a pair of skis, skates or a snowboard or even a pair of shoes for that matter, there are still some major questions to be answered.
The biggest is finances. The federal government has just announced it is kicking in $2.5 million to support the Vancouver-Whistler gambit (a must to pacify those who would scream because Toronto got $2.5 million of taxpayers money for its 2008 Summer Olympic bid). A week before, the B.C. Lottery Corporation announced a $1.5 million contribution to the Vancouver-Whistler group. That totals $4 million in a seven day span.
Two months ago, the Winter Bid chairman stated that half the "target" of $20 million had been reached; $10 million. If this were extrapolated, it would indicate that the $20 million total should be reached by July of this year, when the 2008 Bid winner is announced. (It will probably be Toronto, now that the Chinese have shot themselves in the spy-plane and started selling arms to Iran and Iraq, thus seriously jeopardizing the Beijing Bid. And let's face it, when you analyze the other key bidders in the 2008 race, Paris has already hosted two five-ring efforts, Japan hosted last time at Nagano, and the monetary system in Istanbul is in such disarray, you need a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a hamburger.)
The Bid Corporation for Vancouver-Whistler has not adequately presented ant kind of budget as to 1. Why it needs $20 million (the amount Sydney spent on a summer bid, which is 10 times more detailed and time consuming than a winter effort). 2. Where the money will be spent. 3. How would organizers spend any profits once the games ended?
Will Whistler get a much needed improved highway from Vancouver? Not likely. Will it get any athlete housing that can be converted to affordable housing? Not likely.
So what are the benefits? It is undeniable that the Games, even a bid, would have benefits. Even if we do not get a better road and affordable housing, it will create jobs, foster Sea to Sky unity and propel Vancouver and Whistler beyond their Number one status which they already own. However, we must ask ourselves, how many jobs would remain after the Winter Olympics? How would the Games alter the physical landscape of the village and its surroundings? What business opportunities would be open to local residents, and would any profits be spent at Whistler once the Games ended? What would it do to property taxes, which have already gone ballistic due to inflated values/assessments?
The Bid Committee has refused numerous requests from B.C. residents to hold a province-wide poll on whether the people back home support the effort. Sometimes it is necessary to leave it to the Vancouver Chairman, the Whistler Chairman, the Chairman of Finance, the Chairman of Promotion, the Chairman of Public Relations, the Chairman of Travel, the Chairman of Publicity, and each of their three immediate underlings. Most of these people are professionally trained on how NOT to answer questions outlined herein.
If they don't, perhaps it's time the authorities demanded the Bid Committee operate under the province's open-government laws and Freedom of Information Act.
Lets make sure the benefits to Whistler outweigh the uncertainties in an Olympic Bid.