No soft landing for Whistler's ski jumps 

click to enlarge wop_jump_web.jpg

I was fortunate enough recently to be out at Whistler Olympic Park on a bluebird day.

The ski trails were beautiful, the scenery amazing and the smiles on the faces of those sharing the trails could not have been wider.

And yes, I even got to shoot in the biathlon range.

I have to admit that it has been a few months since I have been out there and I had forgotten what an amazing venue it is.

As I skied around I recalled with colleagues — it was an office excursion — what it was like during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The buses were everywhere, spectators lined up for food, drinks, to see the athletes, for transportation, to see the ice sculptures — you name it there was a line-up for it.

But it was exciting.

While I reported from several events, by far and away my favourite was the ski jumping. The very vocal Europeans — some clad in just breeches, flag-capes and interesting hats — always stole the show. While they cheered on their favourite athletes, they also cheered everyone especially our Canadian contingent.

Leading up to the Games the media reported frequently on the rising cost of the venue.

In the Bid Book Olympic Park was slated to cost $102 million but according to the Vancouver Organizing Committee's final financial report (http://www.2010legaciesnow.com/vanoc_final_financial/) the venue finally came it at $122.4 million.

Of that, according to Whistler Sport Legacies, $30 million was spent on the ski jumps — this includes the jumps, the chair lift, the refrigeration plant, and the snowmaking system.

When the jumps were first proposed and built there was an assumption that they would become part of the competition and training circuit — though they were frequently called out as the "white elephant" of Games venues in the media. In other words the 140-and 106-metre jumps would be permanent structures after the Games. After all, who would spend $30 million on a sporting structure and then tear it down?

One of the questions most frequently dodged at the time by Olympic officials was what the real fate of those jumps would be. It soon became apparent, as a downward spiraling economy hit Canada, that they would be "temporary," though no one really knew what that meant. It was assumed that they would be dismantled after the Games.

Then during a venue update in January 2010 it was revealed that a deal was in the works to keep the jumps open on a seasonal basis – basically, they would operate for one month a year. I remember the information just slipping out as dozens of reporters were gathered in a tent at the venue for the briefing.

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