Lessons learned on the slopes 

World Cup test events a success for Olympic organizers

click to enlarge Standing room only Germany's Maria Riesch sails over Hot Air on her way to the women's super G finish line on Sunday, with a crowd of thousands looking on. Photo by Dave McColm.
  • Standing room only Germany's Maria Riesch sails over Hot Air on her way to the women's super G finish line on Sunday, with a crowd of thousands looking on. Photo by Dave McColm.

Olympic officials are looking at ways to get more spectators along the alpine downhill courses, build more features for the racers, and are checking their plans for spectator access to the venue after the World Cup downhill test event last weekend.

They are also breathing a sigh of relief since the event, co-hosted with Alpine Canada and the International Ski Federation (FIS), was held mostly under clear skies. It is the first time Whistler has hosted a World Cup in 13 years after weather caused the cancellation of three consecutive World Cups in the ‘90s and led to the resort losing its downhill event.

However, the good weather also meant that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) did not get to put their course preparation team of close to 900 volunteers to the test in adverse conditions.

“You kind of want a little bit of the weather to test the people,” said Tim Gayda, VANOC’s vice president of sport.

“But in the end… from an event perspective, and the television, and the crowds it was good to have that weather.”

Earlier this month, during the Pontiac GMC Canadian Championships on Whistler, VANOC volunteers working alongside the famous Whistler Weasel Workers had their fill of challenging weather with huge snowfalls and poor visibility.

“I think the Canadian Championships was a good lesson,” said Gayda.

“It had a tonne of weather they had to deal with. The volunteers got run ragged and you can’t keep that pace up forever. You have to cycle these people out. They have to get rest. Seventeen days of the Olympics can be a very long time if you get tough weather.”

All but about 160 of the volunteers for the World Cup were from the Sea to Sky region. Gayda said he expects that at Games time about 1,200 to 1,400 volunteers will be needed for the alpine events and 25 snow cats will be there to help move snow.

“You definitely ramp up bodies and cats to make sure you can deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at you,” he said.

There were some reports that a few racers found the World Cup speed courses, approved by the FIS, not challenging enough.

Gayda said those comments should be taken with “a grain of salt.”

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