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Whistler Olympic exhibit goes online

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Virtual Museum of Canada collection features history of Whistler Olympic bids

It took three attempts and more than 40 years of dreaming for Whistler to win the right to host the Olympic Winter Games.

Now that the dream is reality, the Whistler Museum and Archives Society is taking a look back at those early bids and the visionaries who campaigned for the Games while making Whistler a world-class resort with an online exhibit in the Community Memories segment of the Virtual Museum of Canada (www.virtualmuseum.ca).

For the Whistler Museum, which already has an online exhibit with the Virtual Museum of Canada, going digital offers a number of benefits. The main benefit is that they don’t take up any display space.

"The Whistler Museum is definitely facing challenges due to the inadequacy of our facility," said museum curator Kelly Clark. "Preparing online exhibits is one way for us to make lemonade from lemons, so to speak, and ensure that our programming and exhibits are still cutting edge."

The exhibit is called The History of Olympic Bids in Whistler, and it will be featured in the Community Memories section of the Virtual Museum. It contains a gallery of images from Whistler’s development, and a storybook that takes visitors through the story of the bids for the 1968, 1976 and 2010 Olympics.

There are also 16 videos on the site, including those of Garry Watson, John Fraser and Hugh O’Reilly that were made prior to the 2010 decision. Some footage of the party in Whistler Village after last July’s IOC announcement that Vancouver and Whistler would hold the 2010 Games is also part of the exhibit.

"I think this Web site is amazing," said Clark. "It’s the first time in Whistler’s history that all this Olympic information in our community has been gathered together and presented in one comprehensive forum. This is something for the community of Whistler to celebrate – where we’ve come from, and how we’ve done it. It’s also a tremendous resource."

The idea to bring the Olympics to Whistler dates back to the Squaw Valley Olympics of 1960, when a group of Vancouver businessmen watched Canada’s Anne Heggtveit ski her way to gold in the slalom event.

The Garibaldi Olympic Development Association put together a bid for the 1968 Winter Games, but failed because Whistler at the time lacked the suitable infrastructure.

The 2010 Winter Games will mark the 50 th anniversary of "the seed that set the dream in motion for Whistler."

"I think this Olympic history makes Whistler’s 2010 story compelling," said Clark. "I don’t know of any other communities built on the premise of hosting the Olympics, who have tried on three separate occasions to convince the IOC that they are the right choice."

Although Whistler was in much better position to win the 1976 Games, the announcement that the 1976 Summer Games were going to Montreal sidelined the bid yet again.

"We’d been all over the world, lobbying to bring the Games here," said Bjorn Hareid, one of the bid committee members profiled for the virtual exhibit. "And there we were in Amsterdam when they made the announcement that Montreal had been awarded the Summer Games. The Summer Games were announced first. So once that was announced, we knew it was up. But I’m happy now that we didn’t get the 1976 Games because Whistler would never have developed this way. It’s now been developed perfectly."

The Whistler Museum has extended its operating hours on Thursdays until 8 p.m. The current exhibit at the museum is Frozen time: Glaciers in the Coast Mountains.

The museum is located next to the library on Main Street. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday.

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