By Clare Ogilvie
Three-time Paralympian Phil Chew
is counting the days until Whistler welcomes the world’s most elite athletes
“I think it will be fabulous in
Whistler,” said Chew, now a full time coach with the B.C. Disabled Alpine Ski
Team, which grooms local athletes as they pursue their dream of going for gold.
“The venues here are fabulous. It
is starting to be a more accessible place. In fact I think Whistler will
probably be the most accessible Olympics to date.”
Three years from now Whistler
and Vancouver will be hosting the Paralympics, which are expected to bring up
to 1,300 athletes and team officials from 40 countries for the 10-day Games
running March 10 to 21. In all there will be 56 medal events. About 1,300 media
are expected to cover the competitions, many of which will be televised.
It is the first time that Canada
has hosted the Paralympic Winter Games.
Now that much of the
preparations for the Olympics are well underway intense planning for the
Paralympics is front and centre and that includes encompassing the lessons
learned in Torino.
With 12 days to transition from
Olympic Games to Paralympic Games mode, planning and precision is critical in
all areas. Attention to the conversion of integrated planning for
accessibility, such as building ramps and accessible routes into the venues
prior to the start of the Olympic Games, makes for less changeover during the
And while preparations seem to
be going smoothly they have not been without hurdles. During the bid phase the
International and Canadian Paralympics Committees were wowed with a vision,
which saw all the Paralympic events hosted in Whistler — the first time such a
compact venue had been offered up.
From Whistler’s point of view it
was good news too since there would be a new ice arena as a legacy. But rising
construction costs put an end to the dream, which was to be partially funded by
the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and now ice sledge hockey, one of the most
popular events, will be held in Vancouver, along with wheelchair curling.
The decision last year to give
up the ice arena split the community.