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Olympic visionary volunteering with Australia

Garry Watson happiest helping out



In the last week Garry Watson, one of Whistler's longtime Olympic visionaries, has been buying birthday cakes, "stealing" lumber and hunting down legal counsel.

That's just what you do when you're a National Olympic Committee (NOC) Assistant, six days a week, at least eight hours a day.

Every NOC has its assistants. Watson just happens to be working for the Australian Olympic Committee. His ties to that NOC date far back. His first wife was Australian and his son raced for the national team in the mid-80s.

To be in the thick of these Olympics, on the ground volunteering for all sorts of tasks, is where Watson is happiest.

"That's the only way that I'd want to do it," he said of his ongoing Olympic experience.

Watson is one of the original visionaries of bringing the Olympic Games to Whistler. That project began 50 years ago with many ups and downs along the way.

Seeing the scope of the 2010 Games from the vantage point of an NOC assistant is eye-opening for Watson. It's a far cry from the four-page domestic bid for the 1968 Games with its budget of $13 million. That was before there was even a road to Whistler.

"It was a pretty presumptuous attempt," said Watson, reminiscing about his involvement in the early years.

A decade later he was at it again for the 1976 international bid, which Whistler again lost. The bid, however, was the catalyst in making the resort what it is today.

When asked if the Olympics in 2010 are all that he thought they would be back in those days, Watson shakes his head with a laugh.

"(It's) ten times more than where our heads were back in the '70s," he said. "Oh my gosh, I'm just staggered by the scale of things, the number of people involved, and the cost."

But today he's enjoying his tasks even if it means stealing lumber for the Australian bobsleigh team.

"They were building a practice start," said Watson. "They wanted it as braces... and all they needed were some two-by-fours."

Watson was back in Function Junction on Monday morning to explain the missing lumber and pay for what he took.

Sometimes it pays to have a local helping you out around town.