The people’s Games 

Two years and counting as Whistler gets ready to change the world through the Paralympics

click to enlarge Golden Moment The Canadian sledge hockey team celebrates its victory over the U.S. in the 2006 Paralympics, and the team's first ever Paralympic win since sledge hockey was added to the Games in 1994.
  • Golden Moment The Canadian sledge hockey team celebrates its victory over the U.S. in the 2006 Paralympics, and the team's first ever Paralympic win since sledge hockey was added to the Games in 1994.

Paralympic officials are concerned that the cost of accommodation in Whistler in 2010 will force them to stay in Vancouver rather than in the resort, which is hosting the majority of the event.

“One of the challenges we are experiencing, especially for Whistler, is that often the (accommodation) prices in that season are quite expensive,” said Arno Wolter, executive planner for the International Parlaympic Committee from headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

“Since the heartbeat of the Paralympics will be up in Whistler obviously the Paralympic family would like to be up there.

“…If the prices are prohibitive, with say, a one night stay costing $400, $500, $600 Cdn dollars then it becomes very difficult. Most of the (National Paralympic Committees) will have to choose to live in Vancouver and that will shift the experience… and that would be a little bit of a strange situation.”

The concern comes as Vancouver and Whistler celebrate the two-year countdown to the start of the 2010 Paralympics, which will run from March 12 to 21. It is the first time Canada has hosted the Winter Paralympic Games, which will see 1,350 athletes and officials come to compete in 60 Paralympic medal events.

Paralympic athletes and coaches will stay in Whistler’s athletes’ village during the Games, but it is the Paralympic officials, sport organizations, athletes’ families and sponsors who are concerned about the cost of Whistler’s accommodation.

Those worries were echoed by Carla Qualtrough, president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC).

“National Paralympic Committees don’t have the cash flow that Olympic committees have,” she said.

“I am talking Canada too and it would be such a shame if Canada and the other 44 countries (competing) ended up staying in Vancouver at night just because it was less expensive.

“We are going to have a great team and a great event but if what we are remembered for is that no one could afford to stay (in Whistler) that would be tragic.”

Qualtrough said Paralympic officials are in discussions with the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) and others to find a solution. It will also be top of the list of challenges to solve when IPC members come to Vancouver in May for talks.

Qualtrough said everyone is determined to find an answer but if a solution is slow to materialize this may impact how the Paralympics are delivered.

“We already have sledge hockey and curling down in Vancouver,” she said. “If you give us one more reason to head to Vancouver that might be it. But I know we will fix it, we have to.”

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