From vision to reality 

At the peak of their profession, Whistler's Ecosign designs the world's snowy playgrounds

  • Photo by Tom Bear for the wall street journal, courtesy of ecosign
  • Paul Mathews

Page 6 of 10

At the time, Moscow was bidding against London, New York, Madrid and Paris for the 2012 Summer Games.

It was pretty stiff competition and Tiegochiv told Mathews he thought Russia had no chance.

"He said, 'Paul, do you think it's possible for some Winter Olympics down in this region near Sochi?'" said Mathews. "I said, 'I have no idea. We haven't looked specifically at that. The Olympics have a certain requirement and we have to check if there are physically these possibilities.'"

Tiegochiv told him to go ahead.

"I said, Okay. It'll cost you $30,000 and I need four months to do it,' added Mathews. "Just about then, Potanin arrived and he heard the offer. He said, 'Paul you have only two months but $40,000.' So actually he gave us 40 grand and we went home."

By then Ecosign had been analyzing the valley for about five years and had all the data in its computers in Whistler.

"We were beginning to get to know the place pretty well," chuckled Mathews. "We got home and we put in the snow cluster (alpine and Nordic events), while the ice events would go to Sochi, by the sea."

Mathews said Vancouver's 2010 bid helped sell that concept plan because Vancouver also sat on the ocean and had successfully separated the snow and ice events.

"Low and behold, we drew up the snow cluster and, in April that year, we presented the concept to Putin and he said, 'Oh I like that idea, so please proceed.'" he said.

Mathews said his work in Sochi ended about 18 months ago.

"I don't know how many times I've been to Sochi, me and my staff," he said. "I'm waiting for something to go wrong and the mad call to come and fix it."

During his time working in Russia, Mathews said he was able to master the tricky task of attending marathon banquets where guests were expected to toast every speech with a shot of vodka.

"Christ Almighty, when you get 20 speakers, you just get shit-faced," said Mathews. " So an old FIS (International Ski Federation) guy from Sweden said, 'No no, there's a way to handle this.'"

There would be glasses of water on the table and it's quite permitted to drink your vodka and then have a drink of water afterwards as a chaser, Mathews was told.

"What you do is you take the shot and slam it down on the table like everybody else, and then you grab your water and slowly let the vodka back into the water glass," he said, smiling. "Mind you, you have to change your water glass every once in a while. So, after a couple of quite bleary dinner parties, I'd figured it out."


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