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Olympic Game Plan answers some questions

Transportation, security issues top of mind at Whistler meeting

 

Whistler residents in neighbourhoods close to Olympic venues will have to get a permit for their car at Games time.

And residents will also have to get a permit to drive the Sea to Sky Highway.

The systems, though still works in progress, were outlined Wednesday night at a Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee Game Plan meeting, which drew over 300 people.

The meetings, including one in Pemberton tonight, are designed to bring Olympic communities up to date with plans and preparations as the Games draw nearer.

"We wanted to make sure that the transportation worked around the venues," Bill Barratt, the Resort Municipality of Whistler's Chief Administrative Officer told the audience.

"We want to make sure that our residents and guests have easy access to their hotels and home.

"You will be able to get around. There are only a few areas that will be permitted and on the whole we believe it will decrease transit congestion."

The permits will be mailed out using the tax roll for addresses. There will also be an office at municipal hall to deal with anyone who needs a permit but is not on the tax roll. Each household will get two fully transferable permits.

While most in the audience left with a better understanding of what it will be like to live with virtually no public parking, 55,000 daily guests, thousands of media looking for a story, thousands of security officials, a restricted highway and road system, some still had questions.

Can bars and restaurants stay open longer? Will people be able to protest? Will taxis and limousines face long delays in driving from the resort to the airport and back? How will Olympic organizers deal with an outbreak of H1N1 flu, and how will residents get around with parking all but non existent?

"We want these questions and we want to answer them," VANOC spokeswoman Maureen Douglas told the crowd.

Said taxi driver Edna Laffey following the 2.5 hour meeting: "I wonder if it is going to be difficult to get our clients to their hotels with all the blocked off streets, and no-go zones."

"It is a little unsettling not knowing how this is going to be."
Resident Leslie Byford, needed to confirm that she would be able to get a family member with a disability around town and to events.

"And I wanted to know about the highway," she said.

"The misconception that we were not going to be able to use the highway, well they officially blew that idea out of the water."

Byford, and family members coming to stay for the Games, plan on going to several events including ones in Vancouver.

The Sea to Sky Highway will be open to traffic, though there will be a checkpoint for all vehicles heading north from Feb. 11 to 28 to make sure travellers have somewhere to park in Whistler.

"It is a traffic management tool, it is not a security checkpoint," explained Douglas.

"It is not about stopping and interviewing and doing that sort of thing, it is about maintaining efficiency."

There is no public parking at Games time.

Both Whistler and Blackcomb will be open for skiing throughout the Olympics.

Whistler residents can travel to Vancouver by car. If traveling to an Olympic event, residents can park and take free transit with their Games ticket once they are in Vancouver.

For Cypress events, residents must park at the West Vancouver or North Vancouver load points and pay the $12 ticket for the Olympic bus.

Byford, a registered massage therapist, does have some concerns that injured clients will find it tough to get into town for help.

"There is going to be an issue for local people who are on crutches, in the foot cast, in back spasm, and that will be interesting to see how that works using buses," she said.

Whistler is increasing its buses from 35 to 139 and moving to a 24 hours a day service during the Olympic period.

Cpl. Manon Chouinard of the Integrated Security Unit, the organization tasked with keeping the Games safe, said talks were still taking place around how protesters will be handled in Whistler.

"We are working with local police here and we are looking at how we can accommodate that," she said.

"I think it is expected by the public that we understand what might be planned for the Olympics."

There will be 16,500 security personnel working at the Olympics, in Vancouver, Richmond, West Vancouver and Whistler. Of those, 7,000 will be police officers, 4,500 will be Canadian Armed Forces and there will be 5,000 private security personnel.

Police officers from across the country will be working the Games and each will wear the uniform of their own detachment.

The only time people will go through security checkpoints will be if they are entering an Olympic venue. Chouinard said the security would be similar to that at an airport.

Venues will be fenced and closed circuit television cameras will be mounted facing into the venues. All the cameras used in Whistler will be removed after the Games.

The audience also learned that the fencing around the Medals Plaza would not be much beyond the footprint of the fencing currently in place for construction.

The 5,000 tickets for the nightly medal ceremonies will be free but people must still apply for them as part of VANOC's crowd management system.
The programming will begin each night at about 6:30 p.m. with the main show starting at 7:30. The Whistler Live programming at the five sites in the village will run throughout the day and wrap up by about 11 p.m. so that guests and residents can get some sleep.

Workers however, will still be coming off shift well into the night, pointed out Douglas. She added that it might be a good idea for some restaurants to think about staying open to serve late meals.

The RMOW confirmed that hours of opening and closing for restaurants and bars at Games time would not be varied.

Meadow Park sports Centre will remain open as usual throughout the Olympic period, as will the Lost Lake Cross country ski loops. The Whistler Nordic Centre will be closed to recreational skiers during the Olympics but will have some runs open during the Paralympics.

The post office and the health care centre will be open as usual, though the municipal hall will only be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the Games.

Vancouver Coastal Health is working with the health care centre on service provision plans and is the lead agency on how Whistler handles H1N1.

A Game Plan meeting was also held in Squamish on Tuesday. Tonight's meeting in Pemberton is at 7 p.m. at the Pemberton Community Centre.

The Game Plan presentation will be on the RMOW's website early next week.




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