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The event business



Is Whistler organized enough for to take on the world?

"Resorts were lined up like 747s at La Guardia for these events." — David Perry in 1995 after Whistler was awarded December World Cup downhills.

"It is our business and we all, in one way or another, count on it for our survival and for the lifestyle we have chosen." — Councillor Kristi Wells on Whistler being in the event-resort business, following council’s trip to Park City Utah last fall to discuss the pros and cons of bidding for the Olympics.

If Whistler "does" events, recent history suggests it could do a better job.

From the cancelled mountain bike World Cup, to the "near riot" on New Year’s Eve, to Dusty’s Last Stand, it’s been one event after another for Whistler, because that’s the business we’re in.

It may be that we’re hyper-sensitive to losing events lately, what with trying to get our ducks in a row for the 2010 Olympic bid and the loss of several events fresh in our minds. In Whistler, there’s the mountain bike World Cup, but also the three consecutive World Cup downhill ski races that were wiped out by blizzards and the failed bid for the 2003 snowboard world championships. In the Lower Mainland, the Symphony of Fire has been doused and the Indy car race is on tenuous grounds, as is the Vancouver Grizzlies basketball team.

Against this backdrop it’s important to remember the successes: last weekend’s FIS World Freestyle Ski Championships – where Canadian athletes won five medals in six events – comes immediately to mind. There is also the annual snowboard World Cup, the freestyle World Cup, next week’s Altitude 2001 Gay Ski Week, April’s World Ski and Snowboard Festival, WinterStart, First Night and any number of other festivals and events that may come to town on a periodic, rather than annual, basis.

And maybe that’s part of what needs to be examined. The mountain bike triple World Cup was a significant international sporting event; international television, competitors from more than a dozen countries, Olympic athletes, a sport which is growing by leaps and bounds, hotel rooms, exposure, spending… But there are so many events and festivals in Whistler today that it has become difficult to stay enthused for all of them. If you live here or are a frequent visitor, do you pay more attention to the World Freestyle Ski Championships – which had never been held in Canada prior to last week – or the lineup of street entertainers on the August long weekend? If you’re a visitor, do you come to see or be part of an event, or is the event a distraction or even a problem, perhaps closing a golf course or a part of the mountain?