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Paralympics the cure for Whistler's Olympic blues

Quiet streets replace the vibrant Village Stroll of last week




The cauldron's flame has been snuffed out and the rings have been replaced by the three agitos.

The Village Stroll is quiet.

Gone are the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, gone the free concerts, gone the impromptu singing and cheering, gone the sightings of Olympic heroes.

In the blink of an eye Whistler's Olympic moment had disappeared.

"I'm deflated now that it's gone," said Justine Ewart, walking through the village with her son this week.

"I loved the scene - just the people, the buzz, the craziness, and the work was fantastic."

Ewart owns Just Cleaning, a Whistler-based cleaning company for nightly rental properties. The Olympics kept her busy these past three weeks.

Natalia Kawatski, at The Oracle of Whistler, shares those memories of the Games. She was working in the store that had a front seat to all the nightly medals presentations and concerts at Whistler Medals Plaza.

It's a much different feel in her neck of the village this week.

"There's definitely been an air of calm and you can hear the sounds of spring as opposed to the hooting and hollering that prevailed," she said.

"It was wonderful - the excitement, the energy was marvelous but it's also kind of nice to be able to breeze with ease down the Village Stroll and get to where I'm going without much hindrance."

It's been a drastic change to calm she said but there are still people in town.

It was that excitement, captured on TV, that was enough to convince the Dalton family, who live in Montreal, to jump on a plane and see what the Olympics were all about.

After their tickets for Florida were cancelled the lure of the Olympic city pulled them across the country.

The family of four arrived in Vancouver Tuesday and came to Whistler for the day on Wednesday.

"We were glued to the TV for the whole Olympics and just couldn't get over the crowds," said Katherine Dalton.

"We came just to see what Vancouver was like after the Olympics and since we weren't here for the Olympics maybe see if there was still some Olympic spirit left to have a peak and look around."

They have found some. There were the Olympic rings and there are still handfuls of people walking around with their official jackets.

But now Whistler is getting ready for the next big event.

The municipality has paid $35,000 for the three" agitos" (it's Latin for "I move") emblem, which is to the same scale as the Olympic rings. The agitos were installed Thursday and will be in place throughout the Paralympics, March 12-21.

The cauldron will also be re-ignited and burn for the duration of the Paralympic Games.

"We're really proud and eager to welcome the world to the Paralympic Winter Games starting March 12 th ," said Mayor Ken Melamed.

"It is going to be an incredible event."

And while it won't draw the same crowds, the same musical concerts and the same Olympic buzz, it will likely help Whistler reclaim the excitement.

"I sure hope so," said Kawatski. "Personally I'm quite excited for the Paralympics. I would really like get out and see some of those competitions first hand."

The Paralympic torch will be in Whistler Monday, March 8. There will be a lighting ceremony by the Lil'wat nation at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre at 11:30 a.m. The first torchbearer will leave the cultural centre at noon and run to the base of Blackcomb. The torch will go up Blackcomb, across the Peak 2 Peak and down Whistler Mountain. An official ceremony begins at 3 p.m. in Village Square. Starting at 3:30 50 torchbearers will begin carrying the torch through the village area.


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