Mayor back in Whistler between Games 

Resort's Olympic delegation to have debriefing in weeks to come

After Whistler’s delegation returns from this month’s Paralympic Games in Torino there will be a debriefing and a report produced on the lessons learned from the Games.

That is expected to be complete some time in April.

In the meantime, Mayor Ken Melamed is in town briefly in between the Olympics and Paralympics. He is heading back to Torino next week, looking forward to seeing the city in action for its next major event.

The Olympics, he said, were an outstanding experience and just being on the ground in Torino allowed him to soak up so many parts of the Olympic experience.

One of his major impressions was just the sheer scale and size of the event.

"It’s gargantuan," he told the rest of council at Monday’s meeting.

Melamed, along with Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, was in Torino for the last week of the Games, following on the heels of Councillor Tim Wake who was there for the first week. Several municipal staff members and other resort partners were also part of the experience.

When asked to give an example of how big it was, the mayor and Wilhelm-Morden listed off the 25,000 volunteers on hand, the 1,000 Greyhound-size buses, the 1,500 bus drivers and the enormous logistical coordination behind the scenes to make the events flow smoothly.

Despite the beauty of the place and the success of the Olympics, they weren’t without their criticisms.

The food in the venues was lousy they said, and both believe that is one place where Whistler can improve its spectator experience.

The signage wasn’t great, said Wilhelm-Morden, and neither was the ticket sales administration.

"Those things won’t be an issue for us," she said.

But one thing which is an ongoing worry, and which was an issue in Torino, was the cost of accommodation.

Wilhelm-Morden’s apartment cost 350 euros per night for the Olympics. That price is dropping to 150 euros for the Paralympics.

"As a resort we need to be very conscious about how we present ourselves to the world in terms of accessibility," said the mayor this week, referring to the price of accommodation.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Games believes it is already on top of the potential problem.

A formula endorsed by Tourism Vancouver and Tourism Whistler takes the historic February average rates and allows a 15.8 per cent premium for the Olympics. VANOC is hoping to have buy-in for the formula from the community.

VANOC needs 3,500 rooms in Whistler for the Games. They have 1,300 signed up to date.

Judging from Melamed’s and Wilhelm-Morden’s experience it appears Torino and the Piedmont region have been successful in their goal of becoming a tourist destination. Both said they would return for a holiday there.

The buildings and the history were very compelling, and the shopping, said Wilhelm-Morden showing off her new black Italian boots, wasn’t too bad either!

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