Whistler starts to embrace 

Thousands turnout for free concert, unveiling of Paralympic emblem


By Clare Ogilvie

As Phil Chew waited for the signal to set off on his mountain bike to deliver the new Paralympic emblem to the celebration in the village Saturday he felt like he was back in the racing gates.

“It was like I was getting ready to race the downhill,” said Chew a three-time Paralympian and coach of the B.C. Disable Ski team.

“I had butterflies and I could hear the roar of the crowd. It was a big crowd.”

As Chew biked through the 3,500 people, who had gathered to witness the emblem unveiling and listen to an awesome lineup of Canadian musicians, cheers erupted.

In a flawless performance he navigated not only the trip through the crowded village but through the concert throng and up onto the stage. With a flourish he handed over the disc containing the image saying: “I think you might need this.”

For Chew the weekend event has really brought the Paralympic spirit to Whistler

“It got me into the Paralympic spirit too,” he said.

“It just proves that Whistler is really behind the Paralympics. I know a lot of people in this town and I have lived here for a long time and a lot of my friends are really behind it.”

Chew was not the only athlete to take part in the unveiling. Several other paralympians were there too, including sit skier Brad Lennea, wheelchair curler Sonja Gaudet, cross-country skier Brian McKeever and alpine skier Lauren Wolstencroft.

It’s the first time Whistler has held an event on the Whistler Golf Course driving range and by all accounts it was a great success.

The emblem, tagged "man becomes mountain", reflects athletes' mountainous inner strength and personal transformation as they push themselves to new heights in the pursuit of excellence.

The emblem incorporates a dynamic human form into West Coast blue and green colours in clean graphics that represent Vancouver and Whistler's lush coastal forests, dramatic mountains and majestic sky.

“This emblem will be speaking for us when we are not there,” said John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games at the unveiling.

“It will be seen all over the world in hundreds of countries. We hope that it will tell a story, put a smile on your face and make you reflect.

“The point of the emblem is to drive the idea that life is full of challenges and we should all rise to the occasion, we should all be filled with that spirit to overcome and the athletes are an example that you can overcome.”

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, who also spoke at the ceremony, was thrilled at the excitement of the crowd and the success of the event.

“It is a beautiful thing,” he said. “This is the kind of opportunity that comes with the Olympics and the Paralympics. We have never had a concert here on this driving range. Why not? It’s perfect.

“And the fact that we are here to celebrate and advance the Paralympic movement makes it all the more special.

Said Lennea: “It seems like every event that gets closer and closer to the big event there is more excitement at each one.

“This is definitely the biggest turn out at a Parlaympic-related event that I have ever seen.”

The unveiling of the emblem was the highlight of a free outdoor celebration featuring Chantal Kreviazuk, The Philosopher Kings, Spirit of the West, Jim Byrnes and Jeremy Fisher.

The Paralympic events of alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and biathlon will be held in Whistler and will run after the 2010 Olympics, from March 12 to 21.

The emblem appeared to be warmly received by the crowd, unlike the Olympic logo Ilanaaq, which sparked a controversy when it was unveiled.

VANOC officials, federal, provincial and municipal representatives and athletes also officially broke ground Saturday on Whistler's $131-million Athlete's Village.


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