Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Olympic planning continues…

“It’s normally very hard to get people out and to start thinking operational. 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.

“It’s normally very hard to get people out and to start thinking operational. 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.”

– Petter Ronningen, chief operating officer for the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, February 2007


“Council will be focusing the rest of their term on improving Whistler's air quality and finalizing the operational planning for the 2010 Winter Games.”

– RMOW press release July 24, 2007


I didn’t see the presentation to Whistler council last week of the 2010 Winter Games Strategic Framework quarterly update. I’ve only seen the slide presentation that is on the municipal website, so any additional context that was provided to council in the presentation by Whistler’s Olympic point man Jim Godfrey and representatives from Tourism Whistler, the Whistler Arts Council and Whistler Chamber of Commerce is missing from these comments.

But the information that is included in the slide presentation, which is presumably the key points, does nothing to dispel the notion that there remains a fundamental disconnect between Whistler’s planning for the 2010 Olympics and the people of Whistler.

Certainly, there are lots of things expected to happen on the Olympic front this fall: a manager of communication and community engagement will be hired; guest speakers will be coming to town; there will be opportunities for the community to provide feedback on the Games, version two of the Winter Games Strategic Framework will be released; and the school board will make a decision on whether to keep schools open during the Games or close them. For businesses, there have been seminars on becoming a supplier to VANOC, on licensing opportunities and, coming next week, a registry for restaurants and clubs that may decide to rent their space and services for private functions during the Olympics.

But I keep coming back to the blissful indifference so many Whistler people continue to show toward the 2010 Olympics, to Petter Ronningen’s comments and to last week’s 2010 Winter Games Strategic Framework quarterly update. Overlooking the fact that this quarterly update comes nine months after the previous quarterly update, it envisions three more years of planning.

To be fair — and this is where I may be missing context provided in the live presentation — the next three years of planning do include some mention of operation. Specifically, the most recent Strategic Framework calls for concept planning and public engagement from October 2007 to February 2008; Detailed planning and public engagement from October 2008 to January 2009, including operational outlines and expanded detail on things like transportation, site access, public safety and security; and Games readiness planning from September to November 2009, which will (finally) include complete Games-time details.

Obviously you shouldn’t go into something as big as the Olympic Games without a good plan. And it takes some time to understand the scope of the task and therefore to develop a plan to fit the task. But four years after being chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympics Whistler still looks like the dog that caught the car.


“In 1999 we were still fairly naïve. 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.”

– Frank Bell, Park City’s former director of Olympic services, February 2007


The first version of the 2010 Winter Games Strategic Framework, released last October, identified 11 objectives. (Objective number five is “To engage the community in the 2010 Games experience.”) Last week’s update shows the branches of the Strategic Framework spreading like a weeping willow. From the 11 objectives more than 130 key deliverables have now been identified. Operational delivery plans (ODPs) are being created for each key deliverable. Each of the 130-plus ODPs will include details on key activities and tasks; progress tracking; community engagement; resources (financial and staffing); impact on current operations and risk assessment. And an internal web-based program will be used to create each ODP.

Microsoft and Workopolis may have to open new offices in Whistler to keep up.

There are lots of good, bright people in Whistler working on these plans for the Olympics. Many have been to the Torino Olympics to observe, a handful volunteered at the 2006 Games, and a few took in some of the 2002 Olympics.

But within the staff and council at municipal hall and the bureaucracy at Tourism Whistler there isn’t anyone who has been in a key decision-making position during an event like the Olympics. And there’s no indication that such a person will be brought in who might disrupt the current culture of planning.

As for engaging the community, that may be the most difficult part of the plan to put into action. There has been precious little about the Olympics for people to sink their teeth into in the last four years. Today, with labour shortages a concern, lots of people in Whistler feel their plates are full already. And Whistler’s recent record on public engagement — the selection of consultants for what has become the 2020 plan and the backroom efforts to move the sledge hockey arena to Squamish without telling anyone come to mind — will cause some people to pause before taking the time to provide input at a public forum on the Olympics.

The fear is that this vacuum of meaningful information may cause a number of people to decide that the Olympics are just too much hassle, and the simple solution is to rent their home to someone for a big chunk of change and spend February 2010 in Hawaii.