The first lugers headed down the ice at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Tuesday, opening the Olympic facility's first season as an official legacy of the 2010 Games. By the end of November the track will have hosted World Cup bobsleigh and skeleton events, the first of the season on the World Cup circuit. It's also the first official World-anything held at any of the Olympic venues - a point of pride for Paul Shore, director of the Whistler Sliding Centre.
"It's pretty crazy," said Shore. "The first thing we're doing, in the first month in operation, is a World Cup. There are three more events in North America after this one, then a break for Christmas, then the series moves to Europe for five more events... but it all starts in Whistler."
The $117 million sliding centre is now owned and managed by the Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies Society, which recently took possession of other legacy Games venues like Whistler Olympic Park. As a working legacy, there are plans to use the facility to host events and serve as a training centre for national, provincial and club level athletes - as well as a growing number of recreational sliders.
To that end, the venue is the official headquarters of the B.C. Luge Association (BCLA) and the B.C. Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BCBSA), both of which are affiliated with the national sports organizations.
The BCLA is hitting the ground running and already has seven "learn to luge" camps scheduled for kids aged 8 to 14, starting on Dec. 18 and running through March. The BCLA is also running programs and camps for returning and experienced athletes. If you want to know more or sign up for a camp, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The BCLA is also planning to host similar camps for bobsleigh and skeleton. Although these sports traditionally draw heavily from luge - and in the case of bobsleigh from other sports that emphasize power and speed - there is still a strong focus on development. Skeleton sessions should be announced soon, with bobsleigh sessions following. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
In addition to the World Cup, an Intercontinental Cup for skeleton will take place on Jan. 20 to 21, as well as assorted smaller events at the club and provincial level.
For the 2011-2012 season, the bobsleigh and skeleton World Cup will likely return although the calendar has not been finalized for that season. As well, the venue will host a FIL World Cup luge event, followed by the FIL Luge World Championships.
Shore says the long-term success of events at the venue will depend largely on crowds. Given that the World Cup test events sold out in 2009, the future looks good.