Thinking outside the lot
I like to think that the RMOW and VANOC are interested in knowing where Whistlerites believe the Olympic medals plaza should be built. I fear, however, that the next round of public consultation regarding Lot 1/9 will see us choosing between five slightly different shaped plazas on the lot in question.
Before our democratic involvement is narrowed to that degree, I'd like to make a suggestion. Clearing the trees from the last forested lot in the village to accommodate 8,000 people for three weeks worth of medal ceremonies is not a sound idea. I'm not suggesting that the land should be left as it is. Build a museum, artists' workshops, a playground, a small plaza, or all of the above. The only use that doesn't naturally fit on that land is creating enough open space for 8,000 people to congregate.
The fact that the money to build the above mentioned amenities will come from VANOC is not lost on me. But must we hand over our decision making to outside interests in order to receive those benefits? If our Olympic legacies come at such a cost, we might want to consider how useful they are to the community.
The driving range is a wide open space, easily accessible and with beautiful views of the mountains. It proved itself as a great venue for the unveiling of the Paralympic logo last summer. A plaza with the Olympic podium could occupy one end. Bleachers or an amphitheatre could be built. A soccer field and a public park could round out the rest of the area to make it useful for locals and visitors year round. (There is currently nowhere in the village that a kid can kick a ball around).
Could some of VANOC's legacy money go to developing this site into a park, while some of it goes to Lot 1/9 for cultural facilities that blend more easily with the forest environment? We're constantly reminded by VANOC that we need to define what it is we want from the Games. In order to do that we need to have meaningful input in the decision making — input that doesn't always fit in the box of a predetermined Olympic plan.
Sustainability is touted as the third pillar of the 2010 Games. It will prove a great irony if the medals are presented every night in Whistler on a clearing that was once the last forested land in the village. Where the facility for the medals ceremony is built, and how that decision is made, will tell us a lot about whether sustainability is merely a convenient public relations strategy or a real pillar of the 2010 Olympics and the community of Whistler.