In between the Olympic theme music and confetti "snow" falling from the walkways above, Arthur Griffiths told a gathering at the Vancouver Public Library last week that Vancouver and Whistler are in the first heat of a race for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The May 1 press conference was the official launch of the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Society’s quest for the Games and saw Premier Glen Clark hand over two cheques for a total of $150,000 to help in the effort. One cheque was from Tourism Vancouver for $100,000; the cheque from the province was for $50,000, although Griffiths, chair of the bid society, noted the premier said it was a "first instalment."
Everyone on stage at the press conference had their reasons for supporting the bid. Clark, basking in a report released earlier in the week which said 11,000 new jobs had been created in tourism and tourism-related businesses last year, said: "If we look to the future, one thing stands out — tourism.
"The Olympic Games are the perfect venue to support B.C.’s efforts to grow jobs."
The premier said the estimated $1.5 billion investment in infrastructure required for the Games would mean jobs for the province.
"The provincial government will be there," Clark pledged, but added "partnership with the private sector is essential."
Bid organizers see the infrastructure portion of the Games’ legacy as including an integrated national alpine ski training facility at Whistler, student/social housing in Vancouver, a speed skating oval at UBC and "major transportation enhancements in the Vancouver-Whistler corridor and Richmond-Downtown Vancouver."
While the province hasn’t made any commitment to transportation systems, Clark recently appointed Griffiths to head B.C. Transit’s Lower Mainland rapid transit development project.
Both Griffiths and Clark made reference to Expo 86 and the transportation legacy left by the world’s fair, as well as the boost to tourism it gave the whole province.
Hosting the Olympics would also be a boost to Canadian athletes, a point emphasized by past and future Olympians on hand, including snowboarders Maëlle Ricker, Natasha Zurek and Darren Chalmers and freestyle skier Tami Bradley.
Griffiths, noting the death the previous day of Whistler pioneer Franz Wilhelmsen, recalled his father, Frank Griffiths, worked with Wilhelmsen on Whistler’s original bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics.
Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said Whistler has spent 30 years preparing to host the Olympics.
The first stage in winning the Games is winning the Canadian Olympic Association’s approval. The COA will decide Nov. 21 whether to back Vancouver-Whistler, Calgary or Quebec City for the 2010 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee will decide in 2001 which country gets the 2010 Games.
The bid society estimates the cost of winning the first heat to be $850,000, and is close to that total in cash and donations in-kind. The cost of winning the IOC approval is estimated at $12 million-$14 million.