Whistler and the City of Vancouver have signed a historic partnership agreement, more than two years in the making, to ensure co-operation around several goals linked to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“This is something that has been a passion for us,” said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed as he prepared to sign the document during the first visit by politicians to the new 2010 Whistler Olympic Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Tuesday.
“From our perspective everyone who arrives in Whistler comes through Vancouver. It really is the gateway to Whistler… we thought this was just a logical extension of that partnership and an opportunity to collaborate through the Games and beyond.”
Whistler Councillors Tim Wake, Bob Lorriman, Gord McKeever and Eckhard Zeidler, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and Vancouver Councilors B.C. Lee, Elizabeth Ball and Suzanne Anton attended the signing.
The main goal of the agreement is to ensure that both host venues work together to make sure the Games are a success.
“It means that Whistler and Vancouver will have a special relationship and commit to working hard to making the Olympic and Paralympic Games the best they can possibly be,” said Sullivan.
The agreement also specifically refers to the Measuring Up program which is both a guide and a process that assists communities in assessing and improving how accessible and inclusive they are for people with disabilities and others, including seniors, parents pushing baby carriages, tourists carrying luggage, and people with injuries.
“The legacy that we want to see is accessibility for generations to come so that people with significant disabilities can take their place in the community and contribute as they should be able to do,” said Sullivan adding that accessible transportation between Whistler and Vancouver is being looked at as well.
This year Vancouver will become the first city in Canada to have 100 per cent wheelchair accessible transit.
Specifically Whistler and Vancouver will:
• Coordinate and share expertise in the delivery of municipal services.
• Work together and share resources and expertise in the planning and delivery of Live Sites.
• Work together to create an integrated Paralympic Winter Games experience for both athletes and spectators.
• Use the Games to accelerate the collective journey toward environmental, social and economic sustainability.
• Work together to support inclusivity commitments associated with the Games.
• Encourage diverse cultures to engage in the hosting opportunities associated with the Games.
• Work together to maximize the tourism opportunities and brand awareness leading up to and during the Games.
There is no doubt some of the partnership is about symbolism – such as the decision to fly the Paralympic and Olympic flags together at each city hall. It’s the first time that’s been done.
But there is also an underlying understanding that by forging the partnership both governments have more power to achieve goals — moving the communities forward on sustainability issues for example, said Melamed.
“Through the experience we are going to share and the building of the relationship it would position both of us well into the future,” he said.
“Not just for the Games, because the future is full of opportunity and we both consider ourselves to be leaders in things like sustainability… building vibrant communities, the accessibility agenda and so on.”
Both host venues are committed to raising the profile of the Paralympics as well — a common goal stated in the agreement.