Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Enroute to 2010

What's the game plan? Are we ready for 2010? Pique Newsmagazine pounds the pavement to find out what's been done and what's still left to do.
1406feature
"Their needs are based on location, location, location." VANOC's Nejat Sarp on finding room for 1,700 accredited media during 2010. Photo by Bonny Makarewicz

Forty-seven years ago this month the seed for Whistler was planted, in Squaw Valley, California.

A group of Vancouver businessmen returned from the 1960 Olympics with the idea of developing a ski area near Vancouver to host the 1968 Winter Games. With the backing of Canada’s lone International Olympic Committee member, Sidney Dawes, the group “discovered” London Mountain and the logging community of Alta Lake. As development of the ski area progressed both the mountain and the community became known as “Whistler”.

A lot has happened since then. Whistler has gone through several phases in its growth, a few crises and numerous turning points. In 1960 the Games were the catalyst for Whistler’s development as a mountain resort. In the first decade of a new millennium they are still seen as a catalyst — for a new phase in the resort community’s evolution. Yet it was Whistler’s achievements as a mountain resort that helped secure the 2010 Olympics.

And in three years time Whistler will finally host the Winter Olympics. A lot of work has been done to prepare for Feb. 12, 2010, but there is much to do in the next three years.

In the following pages Pique staff writers explore some of the issues and questions the Olympics raise for Whistler. Beyond the three Whistler event venues and the athletes’ village, which are all progressing on schedule, there are still lots of details to be worked out and strategies to be determined — 2007 is being called the year of questions; 2008 is supposed to be the year for answers.

Whistler exists because of the Winter Olympics but still has lots of work to do to be ready for the Games. This is a look at where Whistler stands three years before the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Accommodation issue in Whistler still not put to bed

VANOC picks up the pace to solve problem sooner rather than later

By Clare Ogilvie

Olympic officials have spent the last several weeks in Whistler focusing on where to put all the people who want to stay here during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Organizers already have 3,000 rooms arranged in the resort and are near the end of negotiations for another 300 to 400. That will complete their commitment to the International Olympic Committee.

That’s up substantially from the 2,500 rooms VANOC originally said it would need for the Games in Whistler. VANOC also needs to secure close to 16,000 rooms in Vancouver.

But now another spanner has been thrown into the works in the form of the 1,700 accredited media who need a place to stay. And through recent discussions with the IOC’s International Press Commission it’s been made clear that only the resort itself will do for accommodation.

“Their needs are based on location, location, location… bearing in mind that ground zero is the convention centre,” said Nejat Sarp, vice president of accommodations for VANOC.

The accommodation needs to be close to the conference centre so that if a press conference is held media can reach it in time.

Said Sarp: “Usually press conferences are called within 10 to 15 minutes and they need to be on site.”

With that in mind VANOC officials are phoning individual owners of condos, town homes and anyone else with traditional and non-traditional accommodation that may be available during the Games, which run Feb. 12 to 26.

“We have been focusing on this (with) deep due diligence because we have to report to (the IOC’s International press Commission) in the first week of March when the coordination commission comes back here,” said Sarp.

According to the Resort Municipality of Whistler there are 2,500 tourist accommodation zoned properties and 4,000 hotel rooms, bed and breakfasts, pension and hostel rooms. Right now it looks like VANOC needs about 5,000 of those rooms.

It’s expected that the Games, in Vancouver and Whistler, will draw about 250,000 individual visitors and will sell 1.8 million tickets to events.

Spectators will be able to start booking accommodation in Whistler next year once the IOC commitments are secured.

The VANOC offer on the table to the accommodation providers is based on a formula, which for Whistler would take the average of 2006, 2007 and 2008 February rates, the second highest rates of the year, and add to that a 15.8 per cent premium, an inflation factor, and a fee for VANOC’s accommodation service.

It is considered so fair that the IOC has since adopted it as its preferred formula for accommodation for future Games.

For many hotels it is acceptable since they will be booked for the entire length of the event and in some cases weeks on either side.

But for some single condo owners it’s not clear if it is fair considering how busy the accommodation market may be leading up to Games time. Some think the formula should be based on the Christmas season rate for 18 to 21 nights, not February.

For many properties that would put the tariff at about 30 per cent above the February rate.

Added to that is the uncertainty many single owners have about whether they themselves want to use their accommodation for the Games, or they may sell their unit before the Games.

For these reasons and some others single owners are not committing to VANOC as fast as Olympic officials would like.

But Ben Thomas of VIP Mountain Holidays believes condo owners should not delay in making a decision to get involved, whether they are offering their place to Games organizers through property management companies or organizing rental themselves or through others at a rate they are comfortable with.

“What we are looking for are owners who say, ‘yeah, I want to rent my unit and here is the price that I am willing to commit to,’ (but) there is a lot of confusion as to what that price should be,” said Thomas, who traveled to Salt Lake and Park City, host of the 2002 Winter Games, and to the 2006 Winter Games in Torino to investigate the accommodation sector and the needs of Olympic clients.

“I think it is going to come down to a simple case of economics here of demand and supply.

“We are sitting on requests from a variety of different types of Olympic clients that are above and beyond VANOC’s responsibilities and those requests are going to continue. It is the supply side which is challenging. Right now there is basically zero supply.

“But as we get nearer Games time and more units come on line as more owners decide to make that commitment then there will be more supply, and in my opinion the prices are going to drop.”

Indeed that’s what Thomas learned happened in Park City where places sat empty at Games time after owners held out for too much money.

“Historically the prices have definitely dropped drastically as we approach Games time,” said Thomas, adding that he is already helping some accommodation providers understand what the Olympic climate is like for renters at Games time.

“So the point I would like to put out there is that owners who are willing to commit right now are going to realize the highest returns.”

Thomas, whose company specializes in taking care of every client need, from dinner reservations, to equipment, to groceries and activities, is also helping groups line up other needs such as entertainment space and catering.

“We want to help try and make sure that people are educated and that the Games are a success for everybody,” said Thomas, who has hosted several Olympic related clients in Whistler already to explain the various accommodation locations and available services.

“(VIP Mountain Holidays) in the business of offering hassle-free experiences in Whistler and similarly we want to offer a hassle-free experience for all Olympic clients so they come back. That is the key here. The success from the Olympics for Whistler is that everyone who comes has a good time, is able to find reasonably priced accommodation, and enjoys themselves so they come back.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Joe Weiler, president and an owner of Aloha Whistler Accommodations, which has been in business for 27 years.

“Our perspective is that we are not looking at 2010,” he said.

“We are looking at a much bigger opportunity for the resort that will go well past 2010 and what we don’t want is to have this sense that there is an attempt to gouge the guest coming to the Olympics because we are looking at 2010 in a sense to be a launch into a whole bigger global market for our product.

“In (the condo owners) calculations there are always two things: what is the commercial opportunity to them, and number two, is it sufficient that they would then give up their own use of their property.”

Weiler, who described himself as part of the “home-team” for the Games, would not comment on VANOC’s compensation formula.

“These are on-going discussions and I can’t comment on that,” he said.

“They are very private but (VANOC) is becoming more knowledgeable about what the market is and helping us to lubricate our conversations with our owners as part of getting to yes. VANOC is very sensitive to what our issues are as well.”

Weiler, who has been in discussions with Vanoc, is committed to finding suitable housing for the media.

“We need to help to solve (VANOC’s) challenge to find a place at the inn for the world’s media,” he said.

“They, in a sense, are going to be our window into the world. It is a once in a generation opportunity to do that.”

The focus for condo owners, he said, has to be on the long term and the advantages they will see from making sure those who come to experience the Games not only have good accommodation but outstanding service.

“We are definitely aware of the challenge that VANOC has got to find a room at the inn.”

VANOC has not abandoned the cruise ship idea in Squamish. But now it is likely it will be used for another client group, rather than the media.

VANOC must also find accommodation for its volunteer work force if they do not already have their own accommodation in Vancouver and Whistler. That includes security personnel, only some of whom will be housed in the resort.

Sarp said the current plan would have these two groups in accommodation in both Squamish and Pemberton, and not in Whistler.

In the bid phase, and even after the Games were won July 2, 2003, it was envisioned that the media would be housed in a temporary media village near the athletes’ village.

VANOC is still considering that option if accommodation cannot be secured. But, said Sarp, it’s not a favoured option.

“I would very much like to avoid that because as an organization, yes we have Games time delivery commitments, but more importantly we have got to leave a legacy,” he said.

“And that legacy says let’s showcase Whistler for the future. And with a temporary village that is going to be very difficult to do.”

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said there have been some very preliminary discussions about relaxing the nightly rental bylaws to free up accommodation in the resort. But though it may solve one problem it could create a host of others, including over-priced rentals or places for rent that are of poor quality.

Melamed said if that route was taken the rooms or suites would be inspected as part of the licensing arrangement but it would be almost impossible to control prices.

“There are very few ways of controlling what the charges would be so we are still asking those questions,” he said.

There are still some other avenues to explore, said Melamed, pointing to a recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation study which found that there are about 1,000 units of housing owned by Whistler residents as investments as well as about 5,000 vacant or second homes in the resort.

“We need to have this nailed down by 2008, that is our target,” said Melamed.

“We are moving fast. Obviously there is a tremendous sense of urgency and yet we feel comfortable that we are ahead of the curve. We know that we are a lot further ahead than Torino was at this stage.”

Whistler’s Olympic Games Office laying foundation, framework for 2010

An interview with Jim Godfrey

By Alison Taylor

The only clue that a tidy run of the mill office tucked at the back of municipal hall is the heart of Whistler’s Olympic preparations is two commemorative street banners hanging on the wall.

This room is the hub of the small 2010 Games Office, the municipal department that will oversee all aspects of Whistler’s involvement in the Games with a $10 million budget.

In some ways it’s hard to believe that a three-person department is the centre of the resort’s strategic planning for the biggest event in its young life.

“It’s very small compared to what we want to deliver,” says Jim Godfrey, Whistler’s executive director for the Games and head of the Games Office, “but not inconsistent with where Vancouver is at this point in time.”

Perhaps the look and feel of Godfrey’s office is indicative of the time — the Games are still three years away after all — but also of the man at the heart of it all.

Godfrey is quietly confident at this stage in the planning. In mid-October he delivered the 80-page strategic framework to council. It is the blueprint for Whistler’s involvement in the Games. And though it doesn’t reveal the details of how Whistler will minimize its risk and maximize the benefits from the Games, it is the backbone for all that is to come.

The details will flow from the operational plans, many of which are now underway. There is the village vendor plan and the 2010 marketing plan, the policing plan and the water and sewer plan and the gamut of things in between.

Godfrey knows the community is hungry for details on how the Olympics are going to affect the resort, but he cannot stress enough the importance of planning, of laying a solid foundation and framework for all the details that will undoubtedly follow.

Nobody understands the importance of a plan as much as Godfrey. As the administrator of municipal hall for nine years, he was the mastermind behind Whistler 2020 — the resort’s cutting-edge sustainability plan, which is the evolving roadmap for Whistler’s future.

“It takes time,” he explains patiently. “You have to go through the process of actually building the plans, developing the operational plans, in order to be able to get to the level of detail that everybody is looking for. And we recognize very clearly that the public wants details, they’re just not available at this point in time.”

Pending council’s approval, plans are in the works to hire a communications specialist who will help keep the community up to date.

But that’s about as large as the Games Office will grow for the time being. That’s due in no small part to the fact that other community organizations, and other municipal departments, are responsible for delivering critical pieces of the plan with the Games Office overseeing it all.

The office, said Godfrey, is predicated on the municipality working with the Whistler Arts Council on delivering the arts and culture of the Games, the Chamber of Commerce for maximizing business opportunities and Tourism Whistler for delivering on the tourism opportunities.

Each will take a lead role in developing operational plans.

The Games Office also assumes that other municipal departments will become more engaged in Games-related initiatives.

With scant details available as Whistler moves into its operational planning stage, Godfrey promises the community will be informed.

He says Whistler is on track with its planning but just not ready to share the work yet.

“As information become available, we’re going to share it,” he says.

Godfrey expects to go before council in the spring with an update and from there will be sharing quarterly updates on the resort community’s Olympic planning.

Eyes on the weather for 2010 Games

Millions to be spent on forecasting to keep events on track

By Clare Ogilvie

Tens of thousands of spectators, thousands of athletes and officials and many others will converge on Whistler in just three years time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

And every day for more than two weeks they will wake up wondering what the weather will be like that day.

Not only will the weather forecast determine when or if the events will proceed, it will also offer crucial information to planners, highways crews, spectators, workers and just about anyone associated with the Games and mountain life.

“It is one of the biggest challenges of the Olympics and Paralympics, especially for the Winter Games,” said Tim Gayda, vice president of sport for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games. “It plays into so much of what we do. Almost every functional level of the Games needs to take it into consideration (during) planning, especially for the Winter Games.

“For sport and the outdoor venues it is huge and either we are looking at what we do if we don’t have enough snow or what we do if we have too much snow. We are obviously faced with both possibilities here.”

And with last week’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change confirming that weather patterns are changing over time thanks to human activity it is likely that the Olympic venue sites will see some extremes in the years ahead.

Already research has shown that ski operations are one of the most vulnerable businesses to climate change. Our ski seasons are growing shorter every year, said David Suzuki Climate Change specialist Ian Bruce. He believes the Olympics offers a perfect opportunity to draw attention to this global threat.

“One of the Olympic pillars of the Games is focused on environmental sustainability and there is no greater environmental or economic threat that global warming so I think the B.C. Government needs to show the rest of the world that we can take responsible action on global warming and they have yet to do that,” said Bruce.

“This is a huge opportunity for the B.C. government to show leadership in addressing global warming.

“The world will be coming here to Vancouver. Many of these nations have climate change programs and have a plan to meet their Kyoto targets. It would be an embarrassment if British Columbia did not have a climate change plan that worked toward reaching Kyoto targets.”

Bruce cannot say what, if any, affect climate change will have on Games venues at Games time.

But it’s scientific fact that winters across Canada are 1.9 degrees Celsius warmer now that they were in the 1940s and that B.C. can expect more warm weather events where temperatures will be above normal for several days in a row.

Whistler-Blackcomb is facing the challenge head on and has beefed up both its grooming capacity and its snowmaking in recent years.

Asked if the alpine venue at Whistler’s Creekside could handle weather extremes the answer was “absolutely” from Brian Finestone, the assistant mountain operations manager.

“In the case of too much snow, and it is a great problem to have, that requires more cat preparation time to pack the snow down to have it compacted to a level the athletes are happy with,” said Finestone.

“If there isn’t enough snow we can tell that weeks and weeks in advance with information from Environment Canada which has forecasters based out of Whistler right now.

“And we have massively increased our snowmaking capacity at all the different venues and we would be making snow well in advance. We would not even need to have any natural snow on the ground and we would have the capability of making snow, with the right temperatures, to cover the entire event.”

No one has forgotten February 2005 when it rained to the top of Whistler Mountain. This year, more typically, over nine metres of snow have fallen in the alpine.

The Calgary Winter Olympic Games in 1988 suffered from Chinook winds and the Nagano '98 Winter Games events were interrupted by an earthquake, too much snow, and too much rain at different points in the schedule; events were delayed but the Games were successful by all accounts. This week, the first events at the FIS World Alpine Skiing Championships in Are, Sweden were delayed by weather.

“…If you delay events or postpone them to the next day it has massive implications,” said Gayda, adding that the impacts are felt by athletes, officials, the media, and the worldwide audience, which is expected to be about 3 billion.

“Your weather forecast must be accurate leading into that event because everything you are planning on to run the event is based on the forecast being accurate.”

VANOC has partnered with Environment Canada and in all close to $12 million will be spent by Olympic organizers and the federal government to make sure Olympic forecasts are as accurate as possible. VANOC’s $2.9 million share will come out of the operating budget.

It’s hoped a new Doppler radar system will be in place in the corridor by the end of this year, as well as a vertical wind profiler. There are new weather information collection stations on Whistler Mountain, at the Nordic centre in the Callaghan Valley, at the Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and in various places in southwestern coastal B.C. to help forecasters more reliably predict the weather.

The venue weather stations have been in place for over two years.

“The Callaghan is different from Whistler and obviously Cypress is very different from the other two venues,” said Gayda. “You can’t just globalize Whistler as one area. You have to make sure that the forecast for the Callaghan, where say wind is a huge factor for ski jumping, is also covered.”

There are gaps in the observing network in the Olympic area and forecasters may not be able to detect small yet intense weather systems that could significantly affect public safety, security and the operations of the Games. That’s why Environment Canada is looking at beefing up its equipment.

Some of the equipment will stay on after the Games, but other items will be used across Canada during other hallmark events.

In all there are up to 30 members of the weather team drawn from across Canada. All are receiving training on the unique weather patterns that can be found from the Lower Mainland to Whistler thanks to a course developed in conjunction with a program from the National Centre of Atmospheric Research in the U.S. Forecasters will take the training every year until the Games.

The forecasters are already rotating in and out of Whistler so they can have firsthand knowledge of corridor weather patterns.

Getting familiar with the local weather patterns and getting into venues early were lessons taken from both the Torino Olympics in 2006 and the 2002 Games at Salt Lake City said Al Wallace, Director, Weather Services 2010 Olympics, Environment Canada, Pacific and Yukon Region.

“There is heavy dependence on weather information whether it is a good day or a bad day,” he said. “You need to have the right people on the venue sites.”

Wallace recalls visiting the Nordic ski jump venue for Torino and learning first hand how the weather can impact an event.

During the event the wind changed from a down slope breeze to an upslope breeze. After officials consulted with forecasters they decided to start the whole competition again out of fairness to the athletes.

“You and I, as members of the public, would say, ‘wow that was barely a breeze,’ I think it was less than 10 km/h, yet it was enough to change the competitive advantage,” said Wallace.

“For me it really highlighted that we have to work closely with the sporting officials and others to truly understand their requirements.”

There is also the issue of public safety said Wallace.

“What we are trying to do with public safety is improve our ability to predict with more precision and accuracy with regard to the timing of when the event might come, the amount of precipitation which will arrive, and when it is going to leave,” he said.

That’s information, which will determine when or if VANOC’s 900 buses of spectators and others will head up the Sea to Sky Highway every day for the 17 days of the Games.

“If we can provide more lead time to the public or to the decision makers or safety agencies so they can take action that is what we want to get out of this,” said Wallace.

There will also be a significant legacy from the weather forecasting aspect of the Games. Scientists are modeling using the Games and the new equipment and any new information will be shared with the scientific community

Said Wallace: “The Games are exciting and we are all going to bask in the attention to Vancouver and Whistler. But for us scientifically it is exciting too. We have new technology. We have some new techniques and we are hoping to engage internationally with forecast demonstration projects.”

Games of Olympics past

Three top former organizers tell us what Whistler can expect

By Vivian Moreau

Know when to stop planning and start organizing, get the community involved, and feed the media. Just some advice from three top former Olympic organizers on what Whistler should be considering as it approaches 2010.

Petter Ronningen was the chief operating officer for the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. A banker with a military background, Ronningen was not only instrumental in bringing the Games to Lillehammer, but responsible for seeing them through to closing ceremonies.

Now director of the Games legacy, Olympia Park , a park that doubles as a conference and activity centre where visitors can try out the bob and luge track or host an international handball championship, Ronningen said when organizers were three years away from presenting the Games their biggest concerns were accommodation and transportation.

Lillehammer was just a small farming community about two hours from Oslo and without enough hotels to house Olympic officials, athletes and visitors accommodation was a challenge. A solution was found in Norway’s long-standing prefab housing industry. Knockdown hotels and five media villages were created, then deconstructed and relocated in other areas of Norway after the Games.

Transportation to the rural community was coordinated with Norway’s national railway and highway officials. Lillehammer’s Games were delivered on budget, about $1.3 billion CDN, a cost that was only given incremental increases for inflation.

Ronningen said one of the biggest challenges was moving staff from the planning to operational stages of the Games, to the point where decisions about what to build and where had to be acted upon.

“It’s normally very hard to get people out and to start thinking operational,” Ronningen said in a telephone interview. “They have a tendency to continue to plan — to get them to move out from their offices and start thinking of the operation, you almost have to throw them out.”

Myles Rademan agrees. As director of public affairs for Park City, co-host city for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, Rademan said it’s important for Whistler to know what to plan for but to know when to stop planning. Rademan said because the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) will be in charge of venues Whistler needs to focus on village entertainment for the almost two million visits the Games will attract, a skill already in Whistler’s blood, he said.

“This is nothing more than an extension of what you guys already do. It’s not like you’re a bunch of peat farmers and all of a sudden you’re doing the Olympics.”

Planning the 2002 Olympics was a steep learning curve for the Park City team who admit that during the initial bid competition they thought it was a joke, that they would never be awarded the Games. But their attitudes quickly changed after landing the Games.

“As we went to more countries to visit Games we realized that most people took them more seriously than we did,” said Park City’s former director of Olympic services, Frank Bell. Visiting Sydney’s 2000 Summer Games also made them realize the primary focus for Park City would be providing entertainment for the 2002 Winter Games.

“In 1999 we were still fairly naïve,” said Bell, now city manager in Telluride, Colorado. “When we went to Sydney in 2000 we saw very clearly how the Olympics became a public spectacle and how people have a hunger to be involved in the Games.”

To that end Park City created an evolving schedule of street entertainment that cost $80,000 a day, that sponsors largely paid for and which the city ultimately came out ahead of financially.

Bell said in 1999 Park City was also addressing community concerns about how the Olympics were going to affect them: were residents going to be able to get to work, were roads going to be closed, and were people going to be parking in front of their houses?

Including residents in the Games was achieved through the street entertainment that also served another purpose, Bell’s former colleague said.

“If you look at this realistically this is a television event and you locals are nothing but the backdrop,” Rademan said, “because maybe one and a half million people will see it in person but billions will watch it on television.”

Capitalizing on that means garnering good publicity by treating media well, especially the under-recognized media. Rademan said Park City set up a media village complete with Internet access, free food and access to athletes for unaccredited media, those that came from papers or magazines that couldn’t afford or weren’t offered official accreditation.

“Our motto was treat the press far better than they have any right to expect. You don’t want anybody coming up there writing about how inhospitable and how ridiculous this was,” Rademan said.

Telluride’s city manager added it’s important that Whistler has a good understanding of what will be its legacy from the Games. For Park City it was an entrance park and a transportation complex that linked city and tour buses as well as pedestrian walkways.

“It needs to be more than just a building, more than a rink, you need to be able to show that the Olympics were there,” Bell said, adding that Whistler needs to ensure it has access to the Olympic logo for use after the Games.

Apart from Olympia Park in Lillehammer, which doubled tourism numbers to the city within two years after the Games, Lillehammer’s Olympic legacy has been a 3,000-student college that sprang up in what was the Games broadcasting centre.

Ronningen said the 1994 Winter Games brought Lillehammer 40 years ahead in one step. “I can’t imagine how the situation would have been in the Lillehammer area without the Olympic Games.”

Whistler’s Olympic Venues

Whistler Nordic Centre

The Centre is located 22 km south of Whistler Village and 8 km from the Sea to Sky Highway. The site has already been logged and has seen mining. It is a popular area for backcountry enthusiasts.

It will host four events: Cross-Country, Biathlon, Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping. Both Olympic and Paralympic events will be held here.

The area will have a spectator capacity of 12,000 people in each of the three stadiums, which will have temporary seating and standing areas. There are two regulation ski jumps of different lengths, both of which will be seasonal in use. There will now be 39 km of trails, down from the 100 kilometres proposed in the bid book.

Following the Games the $115.7 million centre will operate as a legacy using an endowment fund.

Construction began in June 2005 and will complete by fall 2007.

All spectators will be bussed in. Some may then travel by train to Whistler Village along an existing line running parallel to Highway 99. They will catch the train at a temporary station built opposite the entrance to the Callaghan.

The original Bid Book cost for the centre was $102 million.

Whistler Olympic & Paralympic Athletes’ Village

The village will be located just south of the resort in the Lower Cheakamus, near the former Whistler landfill.

The village will be used after the Games for resident restricted housing and accommodation for competing and training athletes.

The village will accommodate 2,400 athletes and officials in at least 250 dwelling units. Approximately one quarter of these units will be wheelchair accessible.

The village is budgeted to cost about $131 million. VANOC is to contribute $37.5 million. Including an allowance of $6.5 million for a First Nations legacy.

The Athlete Centre has a separate budget of $16 million for accommodation and training facilities and is being funded by VANOC. The permanent facilities will be developed and financed by the private sector on terms and conditions established by Whistler and VANOC. Homes will be rented or sold after the Games. Site preparation is underway and the first phase of construction is to begin in March 2007. Completion is scheduled for summer 2009.

Whistler Alpine Venue

All the alpine events are to take place on Whistler Mountain with a 7,600-person stadium at the finish line location. Until 2005 the slalom events were to be held on Blackcomb Mountain. Modifications to existing runs and construction of infrastructure began June 2005 and will be completed by the fall of 2007. The estimated cost of the improvements is $26.2 million. The original Bid Book estimate was just over $23 million.

Whistler Sliding Centre

This purpose-built venue for Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton events will be located on Blackcomb Mountain at Base Two. The track will be 1,450 metres with 16 curves (or 1,700 metres with 17 curves with deceleration zone). Speeds in excess of 130 km/h will be achieved in races that are to run some 52 seconds.

There will be viewing for 12,000 people and seating for 6,000, mostly temporary.

Construction started in the summer of 2005 and will be completed in December 2007 to allow for use in two seasons before the 2010 Games.

It s expected to cost $99.9 million and will be supported after the Games by a legacy endowment fund. The Bid Book cost was $55 million.

Paralympic Events

All the Paralympic events, except the ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling events, are to be held in Whistler. Any upgrades needed are included in the budgets for the venues.

In for the long run

Whistler businesses gear up, down for 2010

By Vivian Moreau

Keri Earnshaw doesn’t think her Whistler business will make it to the Olympics. Earnshaw owns the village’s Whistler Therapeutics and says rising rent and lack of staff is proving overwhelming for her shop that specializes in massage and beauty treatments.

“I’ve had to pull ads from newspapers and even the cost of yellow pages makes me cringe,” Earnshaw said.

In business for only seven months Earnshaw isn’t sure how much longer she can hold out.

Beth Shaw didn’t even make it to seven months. Be You Lifestyle Apparel, her clothing shop in Village Common, closed down recently after its third month of operation.

The normally lucrative Christmas season hadn’t produced the revenue she’d anticipated. Unable to pay the full month’s January rent of $6,000 for the 819 sq. ft. space, she was locked out by the building’s landlord.

Shaw had started the shop after reading how locals were looking for unique, independently-owned boutiques, as mentioned in the municipality’s retail study, but discovered that small shops need about $250,000 in order to survive the first six months of business and there wasn’t enough traffic to support the business.

The secret to surviving as a Whistler business is to stay nimble says coffee shop owner Chris Quinlan.

“You don’t just open a store and expect people to come and support you,” Quinlan said. “You have to be on top of everything, be a part of the community.”

Quinlan suggests business owners volunteer on boards and get involved with Whistler’s lifestyle in order to stay afloat. A resident since 1991, he’s already planning for Behind the Grind’s participation in 2010. He’s been connecting with staff, encouraging those from out of country to come back for the Games, promising accommodation and confirming wages.

Ginalyn MacDonald is the manager of Birks in Village Common. Although the store is closed two days a week because of lack of staff, MacDonald said Birks, which celebrates its 100 th anniversary of being in B.C. this week, is in for the run up to the Olympics. But MacDonald does have questions about 2010.

“It’s a bit scary to know how busy it will really will be,” she said. “My concerns are that we are not going to be able to drive to work in the village.”

George McConkey’s chief concern was what the 2010 would do to rent for his Mountain Square shop, McCoos. “But that’s been negotiated now, we’ve been paying for the last four years for the Olympics coming up.”

McConkey, who has lived in Whistler since 1979, and been in business since 1987 doesn’t think staffing will be an issue. His shop pays higher than average wages, with perks like deals on latest products, half-price on ski passes and guaranteed employment through slow periods.

“We absolutely intend to be here for the Olympics,” he said.

Gordon Huxtable is equally positive. The property management firm owner has lived in Whistler since 1971 and thinks his business, which is currently negotiating with VANOC to house accredited media, is ideally suited for the Olympics.

“It’s going to be the sizzle on the steak we’ve been waiting for,” Huxtable said. Paying above market wages, regular dinner and activity outings not only keep his staff informed about Whistler, but keeps them content, an important factor in customer service, he said.

“When you go on a lift or out for dinner you’re speaking to someone who lives in the resort… and who can probably identify with the experience you’re having. I really think it’s a big part of Whistler’s success.”

Own the Podium 2010 moving ahead

Hard to measure success given challenges of the season

By Andrew Mitchell

Canada has set ambitious goals for 2010 — to be first among nations with 35 medals in the Olympics, and third among nations in the Paralympics. The mechanism for reaching those milestones is a strategy called Own The Podium 2010, created by the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Sport Canada, the Vancouver Organizing Committee and several corporate sponsors.

With a $110 million budget — not yet fully funded through 2010 — OTP substantially increases the operating budgets of 13 national sports organizations, is hiring a pool of experts in sports medicine and science to work with NSOs, and putting money into research and development of new technologies and methods for use in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. With sports often coming down to fractions of seconds, fractions of points, and millimetres of distance, sports teams are looking for even the smallest advantages over their competitors.

Conceived in 2003, and first launched in 2005, the 2006-07 season is the first year where OTP is fully in effect. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside OTP’s control, it’s impossible to determine whether the program is having any kind of positive impact on athletes or teams.

“It’s hard to say if we’re full on track, this year is a bit of an anomaly,” said Claire Buffone-Blair, director of operations at OTP.

“Often times in the year following an Olympic or Paralympic Games, some athletes will take time off or won’t compete in the first part of the World Cup season — one example is Cindy Klassen, who has taken a large chunk of time off to refocus for 2010.

“We’re also having difficulties given the number of European World Cup events that have been cancelled due to the lack of snow and poor weather conditions. This week Jennifer Heil won her first gold medal in moguls this season, and she hasn’t really competed since the beginning of January. Normally there would be events every weekend this time of year.”

As of this week, Canadian winter sports athletes have earned 97 World Cup medals in total this winter. Whether it will even be possible to compare that tally to previous years is unknown, but there will likely be an asterisk beside World Cup rankings at the end of the season.

Still, Buffone-Blair says there are a few indicators that OTP is having an impact.

“It’s hard to compare but we are feeling that we are on track and are not seeing any major warnings,” she said. “One example is the number of younger athletes that are really stepping up this year, like John Kucera and Manuel Osborne-Paradis in Alpine skiing, Denny Morrison and Shannon Rempel in speed skating, (Matthew) Morison in snowboarding — the list goes on.”

Added funding has made it possible for national teams to train more athletes, and send more athletes to events to qualify for World Cup spots.

Own the Podium is also close to filling all of its sports science positions, and in November scored a coup by hiring Dr. Peter Davis as their director of sport science, medicine and technology. Dr. Davis has overseen similar programs with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Australian Institute of Sport.

This year $3 million was also directed towards the Top Secret program, which is researching new technologies and methods for use in 2010. Specific information on Top Secret activities is embargoed until a few months before the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics, when it’s too late for other countries to replicate the work.

There are four working groups under top secret — one for snow, one for ice, one for air and one for human performance, with NSOs sitting at the table to discuss what projects to provide funding for.

While the programs are going ahead this year, long-term funding is less certain. The federal government has committed half the funding for OTP through 2010, or $55 million, while the B.C. government has contributed another $5 million. The remainder of the funding, some $50 million, is supposed to come from VANOC through corporate sponsorships.

Some of that VANOC funding has been committed by sponsors, but VANOC has yet to commit the full amount.

Buffone-Blair is not concerned, and says OTP is moving ahead with its plans for 2007-08 on the assumption that the program will be fully funded.

“We are very confident that VANOC will achieve their targets,” she said. “We’ll be going through a review period with winter sports organizations in March to receive their budgets, on the assumption that we’ll be fully funded this year.

“One thing we’re also considering is that maybe more funding will be required in the final year than in the next couple of years. We’re going to be looking at the final two years in particular to understand what the needs are, and are in talks with the NSOs about their own plans. All of them will need to spend more time in Vancouver and Whistler training at the venues, which could increase their need for further resources.”

For more on Own the Podium, visit www.ownthepodium2010.com.

Sporting legacies

Whistler athletic clubs expect to reap rewards from hosting Games

By Andrew Mitchell

One of the biggest selling points of hosting an Olympics has always been the legacies they leave behind, whether it’s new stadiums and sports facilities, increased investment in athletes, greater awareness in the global travel market, large scale investment and improvements in infrastructure, or just someone to patch the potholes and apply a fresh coat of paint.

Whistler’s legacies from the 2010 Games are varied. The new Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley is a boon to cross-country skiing in the region. The sliding centre on Blackcomb will likely host the national and developments teams and offer a potential tourist amenity. A medals plaza will likely serve as a public gathering place of some kind in the future. The athletes’ village will help to boost employee housing, ensuring the future viability of local businesses. The highway, although not officially considered an Olympic legacy, will make it easier, faster and possibly safer for people to get to Whistler from the Lower Mainland. First Nations are benefiting from land grants and exchanges, funding for projects like the new cultural centre, and an opportunity to showcase their culture to the world.

But some of the most enduring legacies will be athletic, as local sports organizations take advantage of new facilities, new infrastructure, and new funding to take their game to a higher level. Aside from the most obvious legacy — a chance for local athletes to watch the best in the world compete on home turf — clubs should have some more tangible benefits from the 2010 Winter Games.

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club

Whistler Mountain will host all of the 2010 alpine events, including men’s and women’s downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom and combined. It’s also the home hill of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.

According to program director Nigel Cooper, the most tangible benefit from the 2010 Games is the proposed training facility that would revert to the club following the Olympics.

“The most important legacy for us will be a truly dedicated run for ski racing, and at this point the plan is to use the training and warm-up run of Ptarmigan,” he said. “We’ve been pushing to develop this with Alpine Canada, with Whistler-Blackcomb, with VANOC since the beginning.”

In an ideal situation, the run will be widened, and have the bottom area opened up and shifted towards the base of the old Black Chair. Since most of the run is in the shade the snow is usually hard and in perfect shape for racing and training. With the addition of a small surface lift, skiers would be able to make 20 to 25 training runs a day.

“We would make it a hill that could be shut down permanently as a training centre, and it wouldn’t affect the guest experience from the public point of view,” said Cooper. “It would be able to hold anything from a FIS downhill course to a really cool slalom.”

Another possible benefit for the club is still at the “what if” stage. Currently the WMSC, working with the Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Club and Whistler Valley Snowboard Club, is looking to secure a block of rooms in the new athletes’ village at Function Junction to provide accommodation for athletes.

“I think that’s one thing we’re really missing here,” said Cooper. “We already have a great relationship with the high school and school district, and in Whistler-Blackcomb we have a great mountain host, but now we need to be able to house athletes. Not just from the Lower Mainland, but from across Canada and around the world.

“I shy away from the term ‘academy’ because a lot of ski academies aren’t all that great, but the club has always been committed to producing great ski racers and having those units would allow us to provide that to kids who want to come here and ski race hard, and study, and ski the best mountain in the world.

“From the beginning we knew one of our biggest legacies would be the bed units, and we’ve started to work very hard with the municipality and VANOC to secure a certain amount of those and make sure some are permanent in the end.”

Hosting the Olympics is also helping the club in other ways. For example, the 2010 LegaciesNow program created to support Olympic sports and athletes directly contributes to the hosting of the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup, an international race featuring skiers aged 11 to 14 from over a dozen nations. For many skiers it’s their first international event.

“It’s really a marquee event for us, and a great inspiration for our athletes, volunteers and members,” explained Cooper. “Look at any start list on the World Cup today, and lo and behold maybe 80 per cent of the racers at some point raced in the Whistler Cup.”

Some of those racers include Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumni Britt and Mike Janyk, and Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who are all having breakthrough seasons on the World Cup circuit.

While the club has always relied on grass roots, community support, the Games will also help to generate more interest in the sport of ski racing — potentially creating a larger pool of volunteers and officials to draw on when hosting events in the future. The Weasel Workers, which have helped to prepare for and run every major alpine event in Whistler since the 1960s, are actively recruiting in the Sea to Sky corridor the estimated 1,600 volunteers they will need in 2010.

“Hopefully the sport of ski racing will continue to grow,” said Cooper. “From what I’ve seen in the last four years is that there has been a genuine growth in the interest of ski racing. Hopefully we’ll move back to where racers are considered the greatest skiers on the planet, and the sport doesn’t revolve around the whole freeride side of the sport.”

Finally, Cooper believes that the addition of skicross to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games could be a significant legacy for the WMSC. The sport is currently included under freestyle by FIS, but given that the sport has more in common with ski racing and most athletes are former ski racers, it’s likely that Alpine Canada, B.C. Alpine, and clubs like the WMSC will be adding the sport to their own programs in the near future. VANOC has not yet decided whether to add skicross to the 2010 Olympic schedule, but the International Olympic Committee approved it as an Olympic discipline this past November and the latest it will be included is 2014.

The Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Club

The official venue for the 2010 Freestyle events is Cypress Mountain in the Lower Mainland, although Whistler — penciled-in to host the events in the early bid phase — will remain the back-up venue if Cypress is unable to host the competition for some reason.

Still, while the competition venue may be 100 km down the highway, the WBFC sees the potential for some lasting legacies.

“So far it’s been low key, VANOC only asked us to help them out with a few things they’re doing,” said head coach Marc Mcdonell. “For example we’ll be helping them out in a media expo where they’ll highlight the different sports in the Games. We also helped by setting up a trampoline program, which will be part of the Olympic sites at Cypress.”

The WBFC is also hoping to be part of any type of athletic academy in the Whistler athletes’ village, working with the Whistler Sports School and Whistler-Blackcomb to provide year-round boarding programs for athletes.

And while it’s not an Olympic-specific facility, the athletes’ village will also feature a trampoline and gymnastics centre that can be used by freestyle athletes.

“That’s a really awesome legacy for us, and it’s something that was helped along by having the Olympics,” said Mcdonell. “We’re already booking whatever time we can, which isn’t much because the gymnastics club is kind of limited in their current facility. This is a full time facility we can really use for training purposes. We do a lot of trampoline stuff these days.”

Another benefit is through the number of test events in the region. Whistler-Blackcomb used to host a Freestyle World Cup event, which moved to Fernie more than four years ago and has since been relocated to Apex. It’s important for athletes to be able to see high performance athletes in action, says Mcdonell.

“It’s a good opportunity to see what these events look like, especially since it’s been a while since we had a World Cup event on Blackcomb,” he said. “Plus, the events are going to bring a lot more attention to freestyle as a sport. We’re pretty much running at capacity now, the way things are now, but there’s a lot of potential to bring more kids into the sport, and make Whistler a training centre for kids from all over — not just Canadian kids, but kids from the U.S., from Japan, from Australia, from New Zealand. Everybody will know about Whistler.”

The Whistler Nordics Club

For Tom Barratt, president of the Whistler Nordics, not enough can be said about the potential of the new Whistler Nordic Centre being built in the Callaghan Valley.

“This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility,” he said.

“We won’t be the club running it after the Games, that will be a combination of clubs and organizations including us, but what it will be able to offer the community and the kids is one of the most important legacies we’re going to see from these Games. It’s just a wonderful facility, and I don’t think a lot of people understand what a good thing this will be.”

While the Whistler Nordics club is centred on cross-country, the Whistler Nordic Centre will also introduce the sport of biathlon to the region, as well as ski jumping and Nordic combined.

Although the national training centres for most Nordic sports are currently located in Alberta, around Calgary and Canmore, there is a strong possibility that cross-country, biathlon, and Nordic combined will relocate to Whistler to use the new facility.

“We’re a community club, but one of the focuses of the club is athlete development in our youth program,” said Barratt. “It would stand to reason that if the Nordic Centre is home to the national team, and athletes and coaches, that would be an excellent asset for athlete development within the community.

“And not just for the community. We’ll be able to do more for sport development with the Vancouver clubs, like share coaches, and draw on expertise that will be visiting.”

As well, the centre in the Callaghan will likely open a month or so earlier than the Lost Lake trail system or other trails in the Lower Mainland, and should offer skiing until much later in the season as well.

Barratt says it’s important that the name of the Nordic Centre continue to have “Whistler” in it even after the Games, as a way to bolster the region’s reputation as a cross-country ski tourism destination.

“It complements the Lost Lake trail system so that when visitors come they will have a choice of which area they want to ski. Whistler can become a destination for cross-country skiing, which is good for the resort. It makes sense for this facility to be associated with Whistler, as opposed to the way Soldier Hollow was not linked to any venues of the Salt Lake City Games,” said Barratt.

Tourism will be needed to recover the costs of running the Nordic Centre in the future, ensuring that it provides a long-term legacy for the region.

The Whistler Nordics are also participating in a Cross Country B.C. and Cross-Country Canada initiative to train more volunteers and officials to be able to work the test events, and later the 2010 Winter Games. Those officials will make it easier to host events like Coast Cup races, Nor Ams, and other grass roots development competitions.

Having more events will expose more young skiers to top-level athletes, which will increase interest in the sport, says Barratt. “We’re going to have the elite athletes in the sport using the Lost Lake trails, and that’s going to be exciting for kids and will hopefully inspire them to get more into cross-country skiing and racing,” he said.

“That’s one legacy I know we would like to see.”

The Whistler Valley Snowboard Club

Like freestyle, the snowboard events in 2010 will be taking place at Cypress, but that hasn’t stopped the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club from looking at possible legacies.

Like the ski club and freestyle club, WVSC founder Rob Picard would like to see a number of beds set aside in the athletes’ village to be able to recruit and board young riders from across Canada and around the world.

“We still don’t know what the outcome is going to be, but there have been a lot of talks and we’re starting to look at the new facilities that will be left after the Games,” said Picard, referring to the athletes’ village and new sports and gymnastics centre. “Hopefully we’ll be running an academy program on a larger scale than we’re already doing. We’ve been doing our homework on this, so we have a pretty good idea what we’re going to say when it’s time to submit our idea in a more formal application.”

Another way the WVSC stands to benefit is through the increased number of grass roots and FIS-sanctioned events taking place around the province — the result of increased funding for organizations like the B.C. Snowboard Association.

“There are definitely a lot more competitions happening, now that the provincial associations have more funding, which means more events and better events for our athletes,” said Picard. “A lot more funding has been put into the (Canada Olympic Park in Calgary) halfpipe as well, which is hosting quite a few more contests. I know we’ll be heading there with some kids to compete at the Nor Ams and nationals.”

The new venues at Cypress will also be put to good use in the future, and WVSC athletes will be competing in events as they take place.

As well, the Games have inspired athletes to work harder, and aim for a spot on the national team for 2010.

“A lot of our kids are quite interested in moving forward and earning points to get to the national team and the Olympics, so hosting the Games has been a big motivator for them,” said Picard. “Tamo Campos for one has been working quite hard, which is great.

“There’s a lot of younger kids that know they’re not going to be in 2010, but are looking down the road to 2014 and 2018.”

Some of the club’s former athletes and coaches have already made the leap to the national level, says Picard. Mercedes Nicoll, who competes in World Cup halfpipe, was a former WVSC student. Dan Raymond is a former coach and Crispin Lipscomb has helped out from time to time.

“It’s just an exciting time to be into snowboarding, and hosting an event like the Olympics and seeing their former coaches out there really brings it home for the kids and shows them a little of what’s possible,” said Picard.

Should schools close for Games?

Parents, Olympic organizers discuss 2010 school calendar

By Clare Ogilvie

Should Sea to Sky corridor schools stay open or close for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games?

That is the thorny question on the mind of almost every parent in the corridor at the moment.

While it still may be three years until the Games come to Whistler it could take up to two years to put in place any special courses designed with the Games experience in mind. And there has to be months of notice in order to change the school calendar.

There was a lot of interest is how to get the students meaningfully involved with the event but it was soon clear that nothing could be organized until a decision was made about whether to keep the school open or close them for the event.

“We want to give the students the fullest of opportunities to participate at the highest level,” said school board trustee Andreé Janyk.

“ I’ve heard that their might be a band starting and there is the Whistler Children’s Chorus, all these people need to know the plan so they can organize a program and practice for it. It motivates children to participate in these extra curricular activities in preparation to be the very best they can.

“I just see this as the most positive opportunity for all our students to shine, to learn something new about themselves and to motivate themselves beyond what they saw themselves to be capable of whether it is sports arts culture business, whatever.

With this in mind School District 48 decided to form an Olympic schools committee to gather information and look at the pros and cons of the choices ahead.

There was a meeting last fall between education stakeholders and just about anyone who could offer insight into the situation.

And, said Whistler school trustee Chris Vernon-Jarvis, the committee also took the time to speak with their counterparts in Salt Lake City and Park City, the hosts of the 2002 Winter Games.

“Park City closed all their schools,” he said. “They closed them largely at the parents’ request and they had no flack for doing so.”

Currently the committee is gathering as much information as it can with an eye to making a decision before the end of this school year about whether to close or not.

One exciting opportunity the Games represent, said Vernon-Jarvis, is the chance for students to do courses associated with the event, such as event management and tourism. Whistler Secondary is even looking into creating a unique media program that would see students produce high quality media reports and run them via the Internet.

There will be public meetings in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton on the issue where parents and others can get information and ask questions.

Vernon-Jarvis is also happy to receive questions to his e-mail at ccvj@telus.net which, he said, he will endeavour to answer.

Part of the challenge right now, he said, is just the paucity of information.

“(The Vancouver Organizing Committee for 2010), because obviously we are three years out, doesn’t have an awful lot of information itself,” he said.

Following the public meetings the Olympic school committee will circulate a survey to parents. Once that is tabulated it is likely more public meetings will be held before a final decision is made.

The public meetings will start toward the end of this month and run into March.

Discussions will range from whether both elementary and high schools should close; whether only high schools should close; how will the kids and the teachers be engaged in the Games; if the schools close how will the lost time be made up; and if the schools are open but space within them is used by Games personnel how is security maintained.

Dick Vollet, VANOC’s vice president of workforce, said security is top of mind for organizers.

“We are very cognizant of this,” he said. “We will work very closely with the RCMP to make sure that we secure the space and allow schools to proceed without any interruptions.

“We have complete control over what groups they are so we will be very mindful that schools will be in session. Everyone has to go through an RCMP screening.”

At this point, said Vollet, VANOC is only requesting space in the high schools. It’s likely it would be used as a volunteer centre or a uniform depot. But at other Olympic Games school gymnasiums have been used for dorm style accommodation.

VANOC will continue to be an active partner in the discussions to make sure that parents have accurate information said Vollet.

“We are making ourselves available to answer questions,” he said. “We want to do anything we can do to calm the concerns about what parents think may happen.”

District Parent Advisory Council Chair Cathy Jewett has also attended the meetings on the issue and has been in touch with Park City parents too. For the most part, said Jewett, parents in Utah were happy with their experience. But, she said, she is still reaching out to parents who worked during the Games to ask how they dealt with the childcare issue.

“For every question you ask five more are attached to that question,” said Jewett.

“To really figure the whole infrastructure it is just mind boggling.”

Media preparedness key to Pemberton’s 2010 plan

Its time to lobby elected officials to get on board with Olympic initiatives

By Cindy Filipenko

B-rolls of bucolic Pemberton are going to be worth their weight in gold come 2010.

Media from around the world descending on the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games represents an incredible opportunity for the Pemberton Valley according to David MacKenzie. More than 80 countries will be participating in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, all with a relatively strong media presence. That makes for a lot of airtime to fill.

MacKenzie, general manager of the Pemberton Valley Lodge, has been active in tourism for the past two decades and been an area resident for the past three years. A municipal councillor, he is also active on the Chamber of Commerce, as both a member and president of Tourism Pemberton.

“With any world class event there’s obviously the spin-offs from having the event in your area. The event being here will be known around the world. There’s lots of opportunities for media exposure from the outlets that will be here. Those media outlets are always looking for little vignettes they can use on their broadcast to support their coverage of the event.”

His advice for existing tourism operators is simple: be prepared. That means making sure all aspects of your business are covered off. From equipment to human resources, operators have to make sure they are ready to deal with the increase in business that is going to happen because of the Olympics.

“Polish up your product. Make sure that it is market ready. Now is the time to do that. We have a lot of mom and pop operations in the valley and 2010 represents a lot of opportunities for them to take their business to the next level,” he said.

While MacKenzie recognizes the current labour shortages, he doesn’t think employers need to panic about staffing.

“Planning now is important; be proactive rather than reactive. I don’t think the shortage is as critical as perhaps we are making it out to be. I think we are very fortunate in our area because we do have a lot of people who want to be here. I think the thing will be getting the message out to the right people. And I think we have a tremendous amount of young people across Canada who would love to be here during the Olympics,” he said.

“The next couple of years may be quite challenging when it comes to attracting staff, but come the year of the Olympics, I think there will be a lot of people looking for that experience.”

And while larger national issues, such as addressing deficiencies in the current labour market, are on its agenda, TP sees laying the groundwork to ensure success for the local as much more critical.

“We’re hoping over the next year to get a good inventory of our tourism operators and the assets we have in the valley and we’ll be getting visual images ready,” said the first term councillor.

When it comes to helping tourism operators build skills, TP is ready to point people in the right direction. In keeping with their mandate of emphasizing tourism marketing, TP won’t be holding workshops on leveraging Olympic opportunities as such, but will assist people with their marketing initiatives.

“We may have workshops on Internet marketing, which is becoming increasing important. We could have information on how to build an effective website, that sort of thing. We certainly won’t be involving ourselves in product development.”

MacKenzie says the Chamber of Commerce will likely be more engaged in product development, with that organization’s focus being the Sprit of B.C. committee and the creation of a big event during the Olympics that will involve business and commerce in the area. That event is already building momentum towards 2010.

Next week, Feb. 9 to Feb. 12, Pemberton will be hosting its third annual Winterfest, a four-day test-drive that will be incrementally developed into a 17-day festival. By putting the focus on providing Olympic supporting entertainment, MacKenzie believes we can pull some of the media’s focus to Pemberton.

“We have an opportunity — for free — to get exposure from media that’s going to be here. If you can give them high definition footage that’s in the can about your area they will play it,” the president of TP says.

“Everyone’s seen those stories on the Olympics, whether it’s been Athens or Salt Lake City, they always show little films about outlying areas and activities, that’s where we come into play.”

Unflinchingly sure of the community’s appeal, MacKenzie is equally sure that the preparation for capitalizing on this influx of tourists is going to be costly. To finance the marketing initiatives TP has received a three-year commitment from Tourism B.C., funding is for $20,000 a year for the next three years.

“We’re hoping the village will step up,” said MacKenzie, adding that TP has asked the municipality for an initial $30,000, to be doubled annually until 2010.

“If we spend money now we’ll see some serious returns in 2010.”

In the meantime, he feels it’s time that tourism operators and those engaged in support sector businesses lobby local elected officials to get on board with supporting 2010 initiatives.

“This year we had a banner snow year. Our B&Bs are doing very well. We had a great summer. Now is the time to build on that momentum.”

Media preparedness key to Pemberton’s 2010 plan

Its time to lobby elected officials to get on board with Olympic initiatives

By Cindy Filipenko

B-rolls of bucolic Pemberton are going to be worth their weight in gold come 2010.

Media from around the world descending on the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games represents an incredible opportunity for the Pemberton Valley according to David MacKenzie. More than 80 countries will be participating in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, all with a relatively strong media presence. That makes for a lot of airtime to fill.

MacKenzie, general manager of the Pemberton Valley Lodge, has been active in tourism for the past two decades and been an area resident for the past three years. A municipal councillor, he is also active on the Chamber of Commerce, as both a member and president of Tourism Pemberton.

“With any world class event there’s obviously the spin-offs from having the event in your area. The event being here will be known around the world. There’s lots of opportunities for media exposure from the outlets that will be here. Those media outlets are always looking for little vignettes they can use on their broadcast to support their coverage of the event.”

His advice for existing tourism operators is simple: be prepared. That means making sure all aspects of your business are covered off. From equipment to human resources, operators have to make sure they are ready to deal with the increase in business that is going to happen because of the Olympics.

“Polish up your product. Make sure that it is market ready. Now is the time to do that. We have a lot of mom and pop operations in the valley and 2010 represents a lot of opportunities for them to take their business to the next level,” he said.

While MacKenzie recognizes the current labour shortages, he doesn’t think employers need to panic about staffing.

“Planning now is important; be proactive rather than reactive. I don’t think the shortage is as critical as perhaps we are making it out to be. I think we are very fortunate in our area because we do have a lot of people who want to be here. I think the thing will be getting the message out to the right people. And I think we have a tremendous amount of young people across Canada who would love to be here during the Olympics,” he said.

“The next couple of years may be quite challenging when it comes to attracting staff, but come the year of the Olympics, I think there will be a lot of people looking for that experience.”

And while larger national issues, such as addressing deficiencies in the current labour market, are on its agenda, TP sees laying the groundwork to ensure success for the local as much more critical.

“We’re hoping over the next year to get a good inventory of our tourism operators and the assets we have in the valley and we’ll be getting visual images ready,” said the first term councillor.

When it comes to helping tourism operators build skills, TP is ready to point people in the right direction. In keeping with their mandate of emphasizing tourism marketing, TP won’t be holding workshops on leveraging Olympic opportunities as such, but will assist people with their marketing initiatives.

“We may have workshops on Internet marketing, which is becoming increasing important. We could have information on how to build an effective website, that sort of thing. We certainly won’t be involving ourselves in product development.”

MacKenzie says the Chamber of Commerce will likely be more engaged in product development, with that organization’s focus being the Sprit of B.C. committee and the creation of a big event during the Olympics that will involve business and commerce in the area. That event is already building momentum towards 2010.

Next week, Feb. 9 to Feb. 12, Pemberton will be hosting its third annual Winterfest, a four-day test-drive that will be incrementally developed into a 17-day festival. By putting the focus on providing Olympic supporting entertainment, MacKenzie believes we can pull some of the media’s focus to Pemberton.

“We have an opportunity — for free — to get exposure from media that’s going to be here. If you can give them high definition footage that’s in the can about your area they will play it,” the president of TP says.

“Everyone’s seen those stories on the Olympics, whether it’s been Athens or Salt Lake City, they always show little films about outlying areas and activities, that’s where we come into play.”

Unflinchingly sure of the community’s appeal, MacKenzie is equally sure that the preparation for capitalizing on this influx of tourists is going to be costly. To finance the marketing initiatives TP has received a three-year commitment from Tourism B.C., funding is for $20,000 a year for the next three years.

“We’re hoping the village will step up,” said MacKenzie, adding that TP has asked the municipality for an initial $30,000, to be doubled annually until 2010.

“If we spend money now we’ll see some serious returns in 2010.”

In the meantime, he feels it’s time that tourism operators and those engaged in support sector businesses lobby local elected officials to get on board with supporting 2010 initiatives.

“This year we had a banner snow year. Our B&Bs are doing very well. We had a great summer. Now is the time to build on that momentum.”

What’s Washington got to do with it?

Plenty says security head, but Games are still not the Super Bowl

By Vivian Moreau

Drafting an emergency response system that works for B.C. and Washington state is Adj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg’s job.

From his Camp Murray office near Tacoma, Washington Lowenberg is the state’s homeland security point man, responsible for over 9,000 air and army national guard as well as the state’s 100-person emergency management division.

Sounds impressive but Lowenberg, as the state’s military director, said in regards to 2010 the state’s responsibility is really about keeping people travelling efficiently through Washington and to B.C. during the Olympics.

“A daunting challenge only because of all the moving parts,” Lowenberg said in a telephone interview. “But it’s easy to do in terms of relationships.”

Lowenberg connects with Canadian federal and provincial officials to plan details unique to the Games, such as how to handle radio air space during emergencies.

“How do we make sure we don’t step on one another’s toes in coordinating ambulance responses and police and fire responses on both sides of the border when we’re sharing common airspace?” Lowenberg said. “Making sure our radio communications are truly-inter-operable so that if you have a priority on the Canadian side of the border and we’re trying to operate in that same radio spectrum that we’re not interfering with what you’re trying to do and vice versa.”

Rob Harper is a public information officer with Washington state’s emergency management department. He says that although U.S. Congress has asked for a report about progress on implementing a joint identification system between Canada and the U.S., the 2010 Winter Games are not high up on the radar screen.

“It’s not of national significance but it is like the next level down… in terms of homeland security to support (security) coordination…. If it were something like the Super Bowl or Rose Bowl it might have got that kind of (higher) designation,” Harper said.

A test run for common procedures will be the World Police and Fire Games in August, 2009 in Vancouver. Lowenberg anticipates an agreement that British Columbia’s and Washington state’s two leaders have been lobbying for, a common driver’s licence, will be in place by then and should help to keep border crossing snarls to a minimum. Negotiations will lead to “a legacy of systems that will be long standing enhancements of relationships with cross border mutual support that will go on literally for decades,” Lowenberg said.




Comments