More than 400 athletes expected
It took five years, but at last Whistler has won its bid to host the FIS Snowboard World Championships in 2005.
The Whistler team worked behind the scenes to get the support of various FIS members, the American delegates, and other European cities that were bidding for the 2007 World Championships. As a result, Whistler was the only city to bid for 2005.
"We really got the word out, and people agreed that this is the place it should be," Whistler Mayor Hugh OReilly said.
A Whistler contingent comprised of Tourism Whistler, the RMOW, Whistler-Blackcomb, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce and the Vancouver Ski Foundation referred to as W5 bid on the 2003 World Championships back at the last FIS congress in June of 2000, but lost out to Marau/Kreischberg, Austria. While the FIS doesnt give reasons and members vote by secret ballot, the W5 team led by OReilly and Steve Podborski felt that their chances were hurt by the fact that the only Canadian member on the FIS council had resigned six months earlier.
This time it was a lot easier with no one stepping up to compete against Whistler.
"When we went over in the bid for 2003, the people we talked to said we had a great bid and should go again," said OReilly.
"It is kind of expensive. Theres an application fee of $100,000 to bid, but people recognized and told us how strong our bid was and we decided to go for it again. Its $70,000 to bid the second time, but we felt we had a better than good chance this time around."
This is Whistlers second FIS World Championships after the resort hosted the 2001 World Freestyle Ski Championships. The event will be larger because of the popularity of snowboarding and the extra events, but OReilly is confident that Whistler has the facilities and experience to host a great event.
Because of the FIS official status with the International Olympic Committee, winning the 2005 Snowboard World Championships could also help with the Vancouver-Whistler bid for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
"It definitely doesnt hurt, showing that we participate in these major FIS events, first the freestyle and then the snowboarding," OReilly said. "Hosting events is something weve always done, but theres more interest recently. Events are part of the overall plan."
Mark Taylor, president of the organization committee responsible for bringing the championships to Whistler, represented the bid at the FIS Congress in Portoroz, Slovenia. As a result he was the first to receive and pass on the news that the bid was successful.
"After five years in the development and bidding process, we are very pleased to bring this event to Whistler. Our annual World Cup in December has become a fixture for six years in Whistler and we are looking forward to building on this great history," he said.
Taylor is also a partner is MASEV Communications, the marketing group that has hosted the annual World Cup Snowboard event at Whistler.
The Snowboard World Championships will take place from Jan. 22 to 30 in 2005, and will feature halfpipe, big air, snowboard cross, parallel giant slalom and events tied to music and the festival atmosphere.
And estimated 450 athletes and officials will attend the championships, along with thousands of fans, sponsors and media. A lot of the action will take place around Base II on Blackcomb, the site that is proposed to host the technical alpine competitions for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
For the Canadian Snowboard Federation, the World Championships will help to draw attention to homegrown talent.
"With the fantastic response of the 2002 Olympic snowboard event and the potential awarding of the 2010 games to Vancouver-Whistler, this World Championships will be a fantastic steping stone for Canadian snowboarders," said Adam Faithfull, president of the CSF and a member of the FIS Snowboard Committee.
Also announced was the confirmation that Whistler will host two World Cup events leading up the 2005 World Championships.
The World Championships are held every two years at different locations. The Whistler event will be the fifth FIS Snowboard World Championships.