People living in and around Olympic venues will be able to buy their groceries, get gas, pick up and drop off their kids at school, and ski on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains during the 2010 Winter Games.
The resort community will be packed to capacity with visitors and workers, a standing-only crowd at MY Millennium Place was told Tuesday night at the first public meeting hosted by Olympic officials to explain how the event will impact their lives on a day-to-day basis.
“It won’t be business as usual,” Maureen Douglas, VANOC’s director of community relations, told the crowd of over 250.
“We (Whistler) do welcome the world every day but we are not usually hosting 80 countries every day.”
For example there will be next to no public parking in Whistler, so people will have to plan how they shop and businesses will have to plan how they get their supplies.
Workers who live in Pemberton and Squamish will have to take public transit to work in Whistler. VANOC is working with transit partners to put dozens more buses to work to keep people out of their cars and off the roads.
VANOC wants as little traffic as possible on the highways so that the hundreds of buses it uses to bring spectators in and out of Whistler have the roads to themselves.
However, said Douglas, VANOC has decided that drivers will not need a permit to use the highway at Games time. Instead Olympic organizers will set up a web portal where people can learn the best times to drive and how long it should take to reach a destination.
VANOC’s transportation plan will be released early in 2009, several months after it was expected to be ready.
Talks are taking place on transportation issues with community stakeholders and more are planned said Douglas. Part of those discussions will include how people who want to ski can get to Whistler without using their cars.
And details are still being worked out on how Sea to Sky residents will get their event tickets and get to Vancouver venues.
Lower Mainland venues will also see traffic restrictions, with some roads becoming pedestrian only for Games time.
Community buy-in to the event is crucial if it’s to be a success.
“The most important partner we have is you, the community,” Douglas told the crowd.
She said VANOC is hoping that people who come to the meetings get a snapshot of what life will be like, understand that planning is still going on, and realize they can ask questions and get answers from Games’ organizers at the get-togethers and through the 2010 website.