Olympic venue tours to start this summer 

Locals get sneak peak at sliding centre at June 24 gathering

Want to stand and imagine the sound at an Olympic venue, feel the excitement, dream of success?

Starting June 24 and continuing all summer long, locals and visitors alike will get the chance to do just that with the opening of the Whistler Sliding Centre for public walk-about self-guided tours.

“We wanted to make people familiar with the venue before we had people going down the track,” said Mark Hatton, manager of luge for the Vancouver Organizing Committee fro the 2010 Winter Games.

“We wanted to educate people regarding the track and regarding the sports especially.”

Great Britain’s Hatton, who, for many years, was the top ranked luger to come from a country without a track, believes that getting locals familiar with the sport and the athletes will raise the profile of the sport across the country and create new champions.

“I think what we are doing here is introducing three brand new sports to this community,” said Hatton, who competed for Great Britain at the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002 and the Torino Games in 2006.

“And I think as soon as people get that understanding they will become enthusiastic; they will get their kids involved in different ways and it will help toward the sustainability in the long term.”

Getting kids involved in the sport locally is a passionate drive for Hatton, who didn’t decide to take up luge until he was 20. Most athletes start training at 12. Added to that was the challenge that there was no track in Great Britain.

“This track is going to produce future Olympians and hopefully future Olympic champions,” he said.

“If we get these kids on the track young and sliding and really starting to embrace the sports then they are going to go into the school and tell their friends about it and it is going to grow…”

Sea to Sky residents will get a sneak peak of the sliding centre (time to be announced) on Blackcomb Mountain June 24 at a celebration with the Olympic mascots, athletes and entertainment. Parking will be at Lot 8.

Visitors will get a chance to see a history of the construction of the $105 million venue for the bobsled, luge and skeleton events for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, which features a 1,450-metre concrete track, refrigeration facilities, access road and spectator capacity of 11,650.

They will also see some of the sports equipment used and get access to the final loop of the track, the finishing stand.

The track boasts a 175-metre vertical drop, with 16 corners. Top speeds will average 150 km/h, making the Whistler track one of the most challenging in the world. The track is made of six-inch concrete with a required precision of within 3mm.

Summer tours will start July 3. Visitors must pay $5.

“In terms of bang for your buck I think $5 to see this world-class facility is a great value for a day out for the family,” said Hatton.

The Nordic venue at Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan will also be offering tours this summer. Self-guided drive tours and hosted walking tours will start June 15. Ski jump viewing will start July 4 and run only on the weekends.

All the tours will wrap up in early fall except the driving tours at Whistler Olympic Park, which continue until the end of December.


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