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Whistler's first date with the world

2006 Olympic round-up stresses importance of Paralympics, making a good impression



As a host city for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games Whistler sent a large delegation to the 2006 Games in Torino to learn everything they could about the preparation, hosting and aftermath of one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Those delegates have since met to discuss their findings, and last Wednesday, June 21, presented the Torino Games Experience at MY Millennium Place. The meeting was a general overview of what Whistler can expect in 2010, as well as what the benefits could be for the community – if the town and its businesses are organized enough to seize them.

According to John Rae, manager of strategic alliances and marketing for the RMOW, it’s estimated that by March 2010 over three billion people will have heard about or followed the Games through television, the Internet or other mediums.

"It’s like being on three billion first dates," said Rae, "and it’s an incredible opportunity for the resort. But we had better make a good impression if we want to go out a second time.

"Right now we have all the raw material to make a good impression, but what we need to do now is take it to another level. It’s really going to be a huge team effort, and we will need everyone to be involved, every business, every individual."

Approximately 20 to 30 people from Whistler were at the 2006 Olympics and Paralympics in an official capacity at any given time, getting a behind the scenes look at everything from marketing to security to venue preparation to food and beverage. There were a number of things that Torino and the mountain towns that hosted the on-snow events did well, according to Rae, that Whistler can borrow. One thing that stood out was the overall look of the Games, the use of signs and flags and the placement of logos at event venues. "The Games looked good, they looked good on television, and they looked good to the spectators," he said.

One area that needed improvement was the way local businesses were involved. He used the example of a crowd returning from an alpine ski event only to find a "back in one hour" sign on the local pizza restaurant. Not only was that a lost opportunity for the restaurant owner, but it also created a negative impression among visitors.

In general, Rae said that Torino, which fell under the Torino Organizing Committee’s area of responsibility, was more successful in capitalizing on the Games than the mountain villages, which were the responsibility of the regional government.

Rae also went over the 10 key lessons that Whistler’s delegates to the Games put together. One of those lessons was to be strategic and not opportunistic, keeping things affordable to ensure long-term benefits for the resort.