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How should the Olympic movement’s role change in the coming years?

That’s the question the Whistler Institute and its panel of Olympic heavy-hitters will explore at its Global Perspectives Speaker Series event on Thursday, April 21
Whistler Village 2010 Olympic  rings
The Whistler Institute is setting its sights on the future of the Olympic movement—and recruiting an impressive roster of Olympic athletes and executives to share their insights—at a speaking event at the Whistler Conference Centre on April 21.

With a potential Vancouver/Whistler bid for the 2030 Games on the table and the second Olympics in as many years recently wrapped up, the Olympics are an even hotter topic of discussion in B.C. than usual.

The Whistler Institute might be joining that collective conversation with its upcoming talk, “The Role of the Olympic Movement in an Ever-Changing World,” but don’t mistake that for hopping on the bandwagon.

When it comes to the Institute’s Global Perspectives Speaker Series, “We have this little process where we kick around ideas, kind of see what catches people’s interest,” said Dave Williamson, the Whistler Institute’s board chair. “We started talking about this one quite a while ago, and it sort of slowly came together. Some phone calls; gathered some support, and we kind of solidified it last fall.”

Set to take place at the Rainbow Theatre next Thursday, April 21 from 6:30 to 10 p.m., the event marks the fifth iteration in the Institute’s ongoing series, but the first to take place fully in person since the series commenced in 2019. Previous topics included electric and autonomous vehicles, tourism, and the climate emergency.

“It’s nice to be back in person. I think everybody’s looking forward to that,” said Williamson.

The speaker series is designed to stimulate discussion around major global issues by featuring “accomplished international thought leaders who have made a global impact through evolutionary and even revolutionary advancements in their fields,” according to the Institute’s website.

Speakers at Thursday’s event will include Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi and Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) president Tricia Smith, as well as an athlete panel comprised of Paralympic swimmer Chelsey Gotell, current chairperson of the International Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Council; Clara Hughes, the only athlete to win multiple medals at both the summer and winter Olympics; Hamoon Derafshipour, a karate athlete and member of the Olympic refugee team; and Paralympic basketball champ Richard Peter. Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton will moderate the discussion.

“So there’s going to be seven people up on the stage, having a kind of a dialogue, talking about what they see as the future of the Games and how it seems like things are changing,” said Williamson.

Particularly in light of Whistler’s deep Olympic roots—the Games were part of the founding vision for the ski resort decades before Whistler became a host location in 2010, noted Whistler Institute executive director Suki Cheyne in an email—“The goal of this panel discussion is to continue the ‘thought leadership’ theme of the Global Perspectives Series to learn how the Olympic movement is evolving and addressing social and environmental challenges and UN Sustainable Guidelines,” she explained.

“Sport event landscape changed over the duration of the pandemic, impacting every part of events, from the athlete to the spectator. The socioeconomic landscapes have also changed dramatically over the last few years and sporting event organizers are adapting to those changes.”

A VIP reception and fireside chat, featuring a discussion between athlete and two-time International Olympic Committee vice-president Dick Pound—who is also credited as the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency—and retired Olympic champion speed skater Catriona Le May Doan—who most recently served as Team Canada’s chef de mission at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing—will take place immediately following the event, upstairs at the Whistler Conference Centre from 8 to 10 p.m.

With more than a few current and former Olympians among the resort’s resident population, the Whistler Institute said it also plans to celebrate local Olympic athletes at the event.

Tickets to the theatre event and VIP reception are available for purchase on the Whistler Institute’s website for $80, with tickets to only the theatre portion of the evening on sale for $30.

A filmed version of the discussion will be available online following the event.

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