When Olympic organizers hired Maureen Douglas as the director of community relations for Whistler eight years ago, there was no guarantee that the Olympics were even coming to town. Regardless, her job in 2002 was: "to chart a course to have a community understand and engage and believe in the Games."
No small or easy task.
Then Vancouver won and the Olympics and Paralympics were on their way. It was overwhelming, she said, in the sense that the possibilities were endless and the dearth of information in the community was obvious. But if there was anyone that was up to the challenge, it was "Mo," a familiar face in town who had been organizing successful events in Whistler like First Night with her down-to-earth attitude and her seemingly never-ending energy and sense of humour.
Over the past eight years on the job, Douglas has seen a community grapple first-hand with what it means to be a "Host Mountain Community" of the world's biggest sporting event; from the euphoria of the July 2003 announcement that the Olympics would be in Vancouver and Whistler to the tense environmental assessment process as the organizers tried to build multi-million dollar venues in Whistler's backyard. As the Games drew closer so too did the nerves and concerns mount about how the community was going to pull it all off, how it was going to pay for it all, and would it all be worth it in the long run.
She didn't have all of the answers all of the time, and sometimes when she did, they weren't the answers people were looking for. But Douglas asked Whistlerites to "take a leap of faith" with her that they were going to pull it off. And they did.
Though her role grew and evolved over time on this mammoth project, producing events such as the countdown clock unveiling and the mascot launch in Vancouver, Douglas was always Whistler's point-person for the Games. Early this week she packed up the last of her VANOC papers - her job finally done.
She plans to take some time off, decompress, spend some time with her family - "the best thing of all" - and harness her creative energy for whatever lies ahead. She did however take the time to accommodate one last media request, sitting down with Pique 's Alison Taylor to remember and share some of her experiences of what it was like to help bring the Games to Whistler as VANOC's director of communications.
Pique: Why did you want to get involved with the 2010 Olympics?
MD: Well, if you come from an event background, and I've been an event producer for virtually my entire career from the time I was 19, it is like being called up to the big leagues.