A fine balance indeed. The kind of balance a blind, one-legged man suffering an attack of hiccups would need to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. Good luck, Roger.
Roger Soane, lately of Nita Lake Lodge and more lately still of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, has taken the symbolic reins of Whistler Sport Legacies, abbreviated WSL and frequently pronounced weasel, as though someone had thoughtfully inserted the missing vowels. Symbolic because notwithstanding the titles of president and CEO, the position Mr. Soane assumes, aside from operational management, consists largely of doing what the board and governing sport bodies demand.
To that end, Roger, I'd like to offer a very robust set of gel-reinforced, memory foam knee pads. Since your search for the fine balance will inevitably lead you to various levels of government where, like young Oliver, you'll be required to say, "Please, Sir, I want some more," it would all seem more fitting were you on bended knee.
Frankly, I have to say there are a number of us who, while personally admiring you, can't believe you're likely to last very long in your new job. Notwithstanding your professed love of sport, you seem to be more a man of the private sector, level playing field, sink or swim, dare I say, business vein. I'm not sure how you're going to take to the dark side of a perennially money-losing, government welfare case, lost cause sort of enterprise. But then, that's why Maalox comes in large bottles, eh?
On the other hand, maybe after years in the trenches of private enterprise you might find it refreshing to run an organization whose survival doesn't depend on turning a profit or even being particularly well managed.Since there seems to be an endless supply of funding, what does it matter? More of everything!
One request though, Roger. You've been quoted as saying, "One of the biggest issues facing the future of WSL is sustainable funding." Just between you and me, don't you think the "sustainable" word has already suffered enough humiliation around this town? Let's face it, in the last decade we've pretty much single-handedly stripped it of any meaning it ever had. Why beat it to death?
You're right, of course. WSL, if it is to survive intact, is going to need continued financial support from every level of government for, well, ever. Kind of like schools. And hospitals. All those vital social services only governments can effectively provide.
That begs the question of what vital service WSL provides society? The answer to that question is, I guess, national pride. Wow, now I think I may finally understand that pride goeth before destruction Proverb. But I digress.
I think you're setting yourself up for some very Quixotic episodes, Roger. You say you want to find a way WSL can move forward as a business, or at least reduce the amount of government subsidy. At the same time, the feedback you've received from your board is that "... their goal is to produce world-class athletes for Canada and they see that as being their number one priority."
I guess this is where I come off the rails with WSL and will probably never be invited to one of your parties. We already spent $100 million bucks — I'm rounding down because the exact figure makes me want to vomit — to build the Sliding Centre. Okay, that was part of the Olympic con; I understand if disagree. Whatever, sunk costs. We've spent millions more to make the safe track safe, build a second start facility because the one at the top isn't safe for... okay, let's just continue to dodge the safety thing. We lose millions of dollars keeping the beast running every year and undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of dollars every time we enjoy the honour of hosting a World Cup.
The size of the Canadian bobsleigh, skeleton and luge teams combined currently stands at 62 "world-class" athletes. I'll let you do the math.
There are a handful of World Cup, North America Cup and Europa Cup races every year. That's it. There are no intercollegiate bobsleigh, luge or skeleton teams, no professional leagues, no pee-wee divisions, no pick-up games. Virtually no one not involved in the sport pays them any attention.Outside of their brief exposure every four years during the Olympics, bobsleigh, luge and skeleton don't even show up on the sporting world's radar; they are the ultimate insider sports. Three-cushion billiards and the world backgammon championships get more coverage on television.
What cost pride?
Now, various of your board members will tell you to just ignore me. Whenever I rant about the White Elephant, I get plenty of feedback from people involved with the creation and operation of the Sliding Centre and Olympics to the effect I don't know what I'm talking about. They're probably right.
One of the reasons I don't know what I'm talking about is, well, outside the Masons, WSL is one of the most opaque operations I can think of. But then, the Masons don't rely on government handouts to survive. WSL was very late with their first set of financial statements. I wouldn't have wanted to be too quick either if I had that kind of woeful news to deliver. The board has not been particularly forthcoming with reporting to the RMOW as promised, preferring the dark solitude of in camera discussions. Shussh.
But what I do know is this: Keeping the sliding centre open is just plain crazy. It'll always be a financial black hole. It caters to absurd, Euro-centric non-sports. It will never be funded by those sports because there aren't enough people in the world interested in them to ever make them profitable.It will always require tax holidays — one of my few real disappointments with this council — handouts, government assistance and forbearance and the goodwill of the people of Whistler to keep limping along.
In the meantime, WOP lives in its shadow. Whistler Olympic Park is the real legacy of WSL. It's a stunning facility offering a sport/activity almost anyone can enjoy. Without the elephant, WOP can thrive... and it won't need the ridiculous village being planned for it either.
Roger, I don't envy you your job but if you really want to leave your own legacy on this town, kill the elephant. It's going to happen sooner or later, why prolong everyone's suffering? With that dead weight off your shoulders, that fine balance you're seeking will be easy to find. I wish you luck.
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