By G.D. Maxwell
Faster, Higher, More contentious than an ethnic joke at a Brotherhood convention. If this is 2002, the Olympics must be on the agenda. This is the year the ghostly visage of Vancouvers 2010 Olympic bid begins to show its shape. This is the year the long awaited public consultation finally takes place. This is the year we get an early glimpse of who the winners and losers are likely to be. This is the year Whistler council rolls the dice and hopes the soporific electorate doesnt turn Novembers election into a crapshoot on how theyve handled the issue so far.
Let the games begin.
Unlike the other contentious issues this town grapples with on a seemingly endless basis affordability, sustainability, growth limits, to name three of the more interesting ones you cant sleep through this one. Apathy is not an option. If the bids going to be successful, its going to take a huge commitment. The reality of the Games in 2010 is going to touch every life in the valley for years before and forever after. If the bids going to be thwarted, it likewise is going to take the concerted efforts of everyone who honestly believes its a bad idea that should have been stillborn. "None of the above" isnt an option this time around.
Thats not to say this is the day you have to choose which side youre on. Im not even sure how anyone could have made a firm decision about whether theyre for or against, given the vacuum of information weve had to consider.
Since this is a topic thats likely to keep creeping onto this page, I might as well show my own cards up front. Im skeptical whoa, theres a shocking revelation but open to persuasive arguments. Whenever Im skeptical about a tough subject, I like to visit with one of my old teachers, have a spirited exchange of questions and hopefully cast new light into dark corners.
Max: So, who benefits from the Olympics?
Socrates: The highest level answer is, Whistler benefits. The Olympics will bring world-wide exposure, tourists into the next millennium, instant name recognition. 62 per cent of the worlds population watched some part of the Sydney Olympics and they werent even in the right hemisphere.
Max: Okay, lets assume for a moment Whistler needs the exposure, an assumption well probably come back to later. The fact is, these arent the Whistler Olympics; theyre going to be the Vancouver Olympics. They will forever be known as the Vancouver Olympics. Whos going to remember Whistler is where the skiing events took place? Know what I mean? For example, how many of the skiing venues can you name at the Salt Lake City Olympics?
Socrates: Thats not a fair question, it hasnt taken place yet.
Max: Okay, Ill ask you again in June. But lets examine the broader implications of this name thing. I sort of feel like Ive been seduced by a sensitive, new-age guy who kept telling me that after we were married I could hyphenate my last name with his, but now that were getting down to short strokes, I find out my name is going to vanish completely in the merger. How come this hasnt come up before? How come it came up right before Christmas when it was likely to get lost in the whole peace on earth goodwill toward men spirit of the holidays?
Socrates: Perhaps the officers of the Bid Corp werent aware of that detail.
Max: Gotta tell you, Soc, that doesnt give me a very good feeling. What else dont they know? Seems like thats a pretty basic detail.
Socrates: Okay, maybe they did know but were waiting for the right time to tell you.
Max: Hmmm, rather sneaky and duplicitous, dont you think?
Socrates: Are you suggesting ulterior motives?
Max: Lets deal with ulterior motives later. What Im suggesting is the horns of a dilemma. Either they knew and werent telling or they didnt know and should have. Since the former implies dark, almost sinister motives, Im willing to go with the latter and simply worry about whether they know what theyre doing when it comes to other aspects of the bid.
Socrates: But these are honourable and learned men, captains of industry, shining beacons of philanthropy. Can you even begin to think theyre unqualified for the job?
Max: Did you notice the new numbers for the bid, Soc? I mean, were just talking about a bid here, right, not the show itself. It was going to cost $28 million, admittedly Canadian dollars, but a fair chunk of change by any standards, just to ready the bid and put something aside for the Legacies Now program. Well, suddenly, that figure has ballooned to $34 million. Since the learned men first put pencil to paper, their budgets gone up over 20 per cent. I am not comforted.
Socrates: These things cant be known for certain. You expect certainty in an uncertain world. Besides, the Bid Corp is raising their own funding. Why worry?
Max: Well, for starters, theyre raising a pretty big share of it from the public trough. What were the numbers, $9.1 mil from the feds, a like amount from the province and Crown corporations. So thats just over half out of your pockets and mine.
Socrates: Yours. Im dead.
Max: Oh yeah, I forgot. Thats a lot of dough for a province that cant pay its teachers, cant provide adequate health care, cant maintain its basic infrastructure and really doesnt have much vision about the future.
Socrates: But isnt the Olympics a vision of the future? Even without Whistlers name on it, wont the exposure benefit Whistler in the long run?
Max: Maybe it will and maybe it wont. Whistler didnt get to where it is on the worlds radar screen because of some big, splashy geopolitical, made-for-TV event. It got to be a destination resort by hard work, smart marketing, sound investment in infrastructure, good management, vision and, of course, a great product. Arent those the strategies that will keep it great in the future? Doesnt it make more sense to rely on those rather than pinning our hopes on a one-shot deal?
Socrates: Of course, all those things will be necessary in the future. But the Olympics will boost Whistler in the consciousness of the fabled Europeans who havent heard about it.
Max: I suspect there are as many Vietnamese as Europeans who havent heard of Whistler. But you can bet if any of them are actually planning a ski trip to North America, our name will come up for consideration.
Socrates: But what about all the other benefits the Olympics will bring?
Max: Guess well have to discuss them another time. Wanna get a beer?
Socrates: Im an Ouzo man.