There have long been murmurs and whisperings about throngs of performers who will crowd Village Stroll during the Olympics, but it was unclear who would be organizing these entertainers and who, exactly, would be footing the bill.
Now, a group of local professionals dubbed Whistler Live! has been assembled to coordinate entertainment at up to six live sites throughout the village, acting as lead agency in partnership with the Whistler Arts Council, VANOC and the Government of Canada.
John Rae, manager of strategic alliances for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, will be the executive producer of the new Whistler Live! team leading up to and during the Games. As part of that role, he'll be supervising a senior management team that includes Scott McPhee and Kristen Robinson of Whistler as technical director and festival director, respectively, and Brent Williston of Squamish as business development manager.
"It's not just people from within the community, but it's actually people who have a long history of producing festivals and events in Whistler. There are significant challenges, because it's not the same as producing something in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre!" Rae said.
Modeled on similar Olympic live sites in Sydney, Salt Lake City/Park City and Torino, Whistler Live! (formerly known as Celebration Sites) will feature a network of integrated live sites situated along Village Stroll that will feature free daily and nightly programming, which includes live performances, interactive events, and exhibitions, throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"Picture, in Village Square, a similar stage setup (to those during the Olympic torch unveiling), probably a few more screens not just there, but throughout the entire village," Rae explained. "And then picture something akin to a very energized fire and ice show each evening at Skier's Plaza. Picture, also, screens that will be rich with a combination of visual arts as well as sport programming."
The Live Sites concept is designed to allow people to feel as though they're at the events, even if they're not able to get tickets.
"You feel as if you're there because you're with another several hundred or thousand people, watching something on a large screen that is then followed by a live performance," Rae said.
The Whistler Live! team will be working with the Whistler Arts Council to program main sites, like Whistler Medals Plaza, Village Square and Skier's Plaza, and possibly another three smaller sites at Mountain Square, where CTV's anchor studio will be situated, Town Plaza and Village Common. These static live site performances will be "knitted together" with street performers who will wander the village.
The entire price tag for the Whistler Live! program, which includes the Medals Plaza, is $12.8 million. The RMOW is providing $1 million; $5 million is coming from the federal government, and the remaining $6.8 million is coming from VANOC. The funds don't include capital costs, but do include programming costs like staging, workforce and talent. The performing talent accounts for about one-third of the $12.8 million total.
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