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Married to the Games? Whistler’s barely engaged

Last October the RMOW revealed, to a breathless citizenry positively vibrating with anticipation, its long awaited strategic framework for the 2010 Olympics. The town just hasn’t been the same since.

Last October the RMOW revealed, to a breathless citizenry positively vibrating with anticipation, its long awaited strategic framework for the 2010 Olympics. The town just hasn’t been the same since.

An opportunity like hosting the Olympic Games only comes along once in the lifetime of most small towns, and in a community like Whistler, built on a foundation of idealism and sheer pluck by people with a belief in what they were doing that defied legions of naysayers, the vision for the Olympics was bound to be bold and inspiring.

Well, OK. In a community that sort of, kind of embraced being an Olympic host — although they didn’t get to actually vote on whether they wanted to be part of the Games a majority of Whistlerites polled back in 2002 supported the idea, and lots of people came out to celebrate when the IOC awarded the Games in July 2003 — the strategic framework would at least shed some light on what the Olympics would mean to Whistler. After all, up until last fall virtually the only new information about the Games that most Whistlerites had received since 2003 was updates on venue construction and the announcement that the long-promised financial tools would become a reality.

This was important but hardly the stuff to give some shape and feel to the Olympics, a task made more difficult since most of the venues are out of sight. The strategic framework for the Games would put some flesh on the bones of the 2010 Olympics for Whistlerites.

Well, not exactly. The strategic framework identified Whistler’s commitments and responsibilities as Host Mountain Resort — the things we are obligated to do. It starts with 11 strategic objectives. Each strategic objective contains a risk analysis, a set of assumptions, key deliverables and identifies who is going to deliver them and when.

Strategic objective number one: “To work with our partners in the delivery of extraordinary 2010 Winter Games.” This may be more of an obligation than a “strategic objective” per se, but it’s worth putting down on paper in terms of the strategic framework.

Strategic objective number five — “To engage the community in the 2010 Winter Games experience” — is an area where efforts to date have come up short. There is a RMOW committee working on the plans for the medal plaza on Lots 1 and 9. And within other organizations, like the chamber of commerce, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club and the Whistler Housing Authority, there are committees working on aspects of the Games that will affect their membership. But there is precious little to engage or even interest the general public right now.

This is where the municipality needs to lead — soon. VANOC’s job is to put on the Games and not lose money doing it. It’s up to Whistler to make something of the opportunity, and one of the most effective ways to do that is to get the community involved. But so far efforts have failed to touch the soul of the community and inspire the people of Whistler.

Following the Torino Games last year there was an effort to gather information and impressions from Whistlerites who went to Italy and to present those perspectives to the community. But four months passed before the presentation took place. Any momentum that might have developed during the Winter Olympics in February had melted by June, and the presentation drew about 30 people.

Earlier this year consultants were hired to interview Whistler residents and gain their perspectives on the 2010 Games. Whatever came from that exercise has not been made public.

A policy to relax restrictions on nightly rentals during the Games and allow residents to open their homes to visitors, and thus become a part of the Olympic experience if they so chose, was discussed earlier this year. Nothing has been heard since.

Meanwhile, Olympic teams and corporate sponsors have been nosing around town for months trying to secure restaurants, clubs and meeting space during the Games. The chamber has asked businesses to hold off on making any commitments until it has a policy in place. It should be ready next month.

Next winter Whistler will host four World Cup alpine test events in February. You can find that information through Alpine Canada but it’s not common knowledge among Whistlerites.

The Nordic centre will play host to five events next winter, ranging from B.C. Cup cross-country races to national championships in ski jumping, Nordic combined, biathlon and cross country. But does anyone know if the Nordic centre will be open to the public next winter? Is there a plan to market it? Who speaks for the Nordic centre?

The strategic framework that was released last October states that the RMOW’s 2010 Winter Games Office will provide council with quarterly reports on the progress the municipality and its partners are making in meeting the 11 strategic objectives. In the eight months since the release of the strategic framework there has not been a quarterly report.

There are 32 months to go before the 2010 Olympics, and there are a lot of Whistler people doing a lot of work in many areas. But engaging the public is not one of them.