By Andrew Mitchell
The Whistler Nordics are gearing up for more than the winter season these days, as the club looks toward 2010 and the challenge of hosting Olympic and Paralympic Nordic skiing events. Hundreds of volunteers will be required for the Games, as well as for test events in the Callaghan Valley that will start taking place in 2008.
As well, the Nordics are refocusing club efforts on youth programs, fielding a competitive racing team, organizing the annual Whistler Loppet, and drawing in new members through a second year of Twoonie Race nights. Last year’s Twoonie season was a success, helping to increase membership from about 60 members to more than 200.
“Youth programs also grew a lot, which helped, and a lot of their parents got more involved through the Twoonies,” said Tom Barratt, who will return as club president after the Nordics annual general meeting nearly two weeks ago.
The guest presenter at that meeting was Rob Bernhardt, the chief of competition for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Bernhardt talked about the need to recruit local volunteers and train officials from clubs over the next few years. The Whistler Nordics, partnered with other clubs from the Lower Mainland, will host the Games as well as help to run the cross-country, biathlon and ski jumping facilities being constructed in the Callaghan Valley.
“We are encouraging people to become a Whistler Nordics member, and take some courses, because it’s a good way to volunteer for the Olympic events — specifically cross-country, but also biathlon and jumping,” said Barratt.
“It’s customary for the Games organizers to go through the clubs for this. Some volunteers will help with parking and tickets, but we also need people to help with timing, course-marking, announcing. We’ll be getting some help from Cross-Country B.C. and Cross-Country Canada.”
According to Barratt there are two reasons why it’s important to build up a core of local volunteers. The first is to build a base of expertise and develop the sport locally, ensuring that the Nordic Centre is a lasting legacy for the province that is “suitable for all kinds of events and athlete development.”
The second reason has to do with the limited accommodation available, as well as the cost of housing volunteers and officials from outside the region. Barratt says the Games would have no trouble bringing in volunteers from Nordic clubs across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, but there is nowhere for them to stay.
As well, there are the test events to consider — everything from the national championships to World Cup competitions in cross-country, biathlon, ski jumping and Nordic combined.