Opinion » Editorial

Loss of World Cup an embarrassment


There's enough finger pointing and butt-covering following Whistler's decision to cancel a World Cup mountain bike event to fill a couple of books on anatomy and fashion.

Within the cycling world the disappointment extends from the local Loonie racer to the International Cycling Union in Lausanne, Switzerland. Non-cyclists in Whistler should be concerned too.

One of the messages municipal councillors and staff brought back from their trip to Park City, Utah last fall, where they discussed the pros and cons of hosting the Olympics with organizers of the 2002 Winter Games, was that this is the business places like Park City and Whistler are in - the event-resort business. To quote Councillor Kristi Wells, "It is our business and we all, in one way or another, count on it for our survival and for the lifestyle we have chosen."

Wells was referring to the Olympics, but the World Cup mountain bike event falls into the same category. In fact, hosting a successful World Cup mountain bike event - or hosting one annually, and that opportunity was apparently there - could have been another plus for Whistler's Olympic bid.

The argument that Whistler already hosts World Cup ski and snowboard events annually, and therefore didn't need the mountain bike World Cup, doesn't hold water. If we already have enough big league events then why is Whistler considering spending more money on a bid for the snowboard world championships in 2005 when it has already forfeited nearly $100,000 in a failed bid for the 2003 snowboard world championships?

Officially, the reason the mountain bike World Cup had to be cancelled was because Whistler, the number one resort in North America ad nauseam , couldn't afford it. Yet, this event was dropped in Whistler's lap. The bid costs, although far less than what is required for the snowboard world championships, were paid by a private company, TEAM Management.

What really happened is that the event fell through because of confusion and uncertainty over who speaks for Whistler in these matters, the resort-event business we are in. Senior staff from the so-called W3 - Whistler-Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and the municipality - were involved in the negotiations, on top of their other duties, but the process was initiated by TEAM.

It is also unclear to whom the International Cycling Union awarded the Whistler mountain bike World Cup event. It was either the W3, an informal alliance with no legal standing; TEAM Management; both; or "Whistler."

A formal organization or corporation, which includes representation from the municipality, Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb, needs to be struck to establish a policy and procedure for these types of resort-events. The confusion over the mountain bike World Cup has cost the whole town a tremendous opportunity and a certain amount of credibility. But there are also inconsistencies in the way things are done now. Why, for example, did the freestylers put up the money to bid for this weekend's FIS World Freestyle Ski Championships, but Whistler taxpayers, Tourism Whistler members and Whistler-Blackcomb put up the $100,000 for the failed bid for the snowboard world championships?

There is no shortage of events and event organizers interested in Whistler, but Whistler needs to be prepared for them. What and how many events Whistler wants to host and the roles of the resort and of private event organizers need to be clear.

Whistler is in the resort-event business but has lost an event - and embarrassed itself internationally - not because of weather or because it was beaten by a superior bid, but because it wasn't organized.