By Andrew Mitchell
As an official Olympic venue, Whistler is poised to become a home base for athletes at the club, provincial and national team levels, much like Canada Olympic Park in Calgary following the 1988 Winter Games.
Last week, in recognition of this status, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Canadian Olympic Committee signed a memorandum of understanding that outlines how the two organizations will work together to provide resources and support for programs and athletes, both leading up to 2010 and beyond.
The MOU also includes guiding principles that will govern the growing relationship between the two partners. As well, the agreement recognizes their mutual partners as both organizations involved in the hosting and production of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
The next step will be to create a working group with representatives from both partners that will oversee several new programs. Eight different areas of collaboration have been identified that are of mutual interest:
• Athlete Host Program — The RMOW and COC will work together to develop programs to support Canadian athletes in pre-Games training, while building relations with Whistler.
• Family Host Program — The RMOW and COC will work together to provide accommodation for athletes’ families during test events and the Games.
• Canada Olympic House — The partners will establish a Canada Olympic House in Whistler for athletes, families and sponsors to meet during the Games.
• COC Logistics — The RMOW will assist the COC to achieve their requirements and/or obligations regarding accommodation, food and beverage, administrative space, sponsor hosting and other logistics in Whistler leading up to and during the Games.
• Familiarization with Whistler for athletes and mission staff — The RMOW will work with the COC to provide a thorough understanding of the resort community.
• Athlete Development — The partners will work together to identify programs to assist athletes to train in Whistler leading up to and after the Games. Consideration will be given to identifying a program to support Whistler’s emerging athletes.
• Coach Development — The RMOW will assist the COC in the planning of a Canadian Coaches Summit in Whistler. Consideration will be given to seminars for the entire 2010 mission support team.
• Whistler Legacies Society — The partners will work with fellow members of the Whistler Legacies Society to ensure success of Whistler venues leading up to, during, and after the Games.
The RMOW and COC will also look into creating a FlexEd program to accommodate athletes that would like to live and train in Whistler, as well as a program to recognize and celebrate Whistler’s athletes and coaches before, during and after the Games.
According to John Rae, manager of strategic alliances and marketing for the RMOW, there is no price tag associated with the agreement.
“It’s considered part of the Olympic program, and no new funds are contemplated at this point,” he said. “Obviously the RMOW and COC will work together closely to identify potential new funding sources for programs, but as it stands now it’s considered part of the existing agreements we’ve both signed on to.”
The joint COC-RMOW committee will likely meet or conference call on a monthly basis, and will be formed of two members from the RMOW and two from the COC. As well, there will be opportunities for local sport organizations and the community to get involved.
“We may invite other parties to participate in these meetings, and in-resort stakeholders will be involved in helping us develop and deliver various initiatives that I think will be beneficial to all parties,” said Rae.
The MOU will take effect immediately and run through March 31, 2011, with an option for renewal. It’s unknown whether any national sports organizations will establish permanent homes in Whistler after the Olympics, although the sliding sports have said they will move here and national level Nordic programs will also be offered. Alpine Canada also regularly uses Whistler for training camps in the spring and summer months.
To host teams, beds will be set aside in the athletes centre, which will also include a fitness centre, gymnastics centre, and other facilities.