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Mayor and council get set to host the world

Round-the-clock schedule will see elected officials representing Whistler to dignitaries, athletes

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One week prior to the Olympic Games, Whistler's mayor and councillors are watching invitations pour into their e-mail accounts and their calendars quickly fill up.

Over the next three weeks Whistler Council will be meeting with dignitaries from around the world, attending celebrations with different countries and taking shifts at the Whistler Canada House.

Among their list of obligations, they are going to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) opening session on Feb. 9, the Bavarian House opening at Nicklaus North on Feb. 10, and the Austrian House opening on Feb. 11.

They are also hosting elected politicians from the Sea to Sky corridor during the two-man bobsled event on Feb. 21, followed by a party at Whistler Canada House.

And while all the council members will be busy during the 2010 Winter Olympics, Mayor Ken Melamed in particular is readying for a never-ending schedule.

"I have been always holding out the hope that I would get to see a few events and I am still trying to do that, but really my role is to be the ambassador of Whistler and to show our visitors and our partners how much we appreciate them being here," said Melamed on Tuesday afternoon.

"I don't say that begrudgingly. Nothing makes me more content than representing Whistler."

To help him meet his obligations, the mayor will have a personal driver, which Melamed said is fairly standard for mayors hosting the Games.

He doesn't plan to use the car all the time but there will be times when he will need to travel between events quickly. The driver will be able to access Whistler's Olympic Lane.

Council has also been told to expect lots of last minute invitations over the Games. A team at municipal hall is currently putting together the council members' schedules and each morning they will receive a daily schedule.

In other words, explained councilor Eckhard Zeidler, if all of a sudden Estonia looks like it is going to get a gold medal in the luge, a bunch of Estonians might get on a plane and come to Whistler.

Internationally protected people will also not make their travel plans known until minutes before they take off, for security reasons, said Zeidler.

And while it is impossible to compare the Olympics to anything else, the mayor added the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference held in Whistler last June helped prepare him. At FCM, he said, he was going for 15 hours a day, talking until his voice was hoarse as he welcomed people to Whistler and shared with them the resort municipality's stories.

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