Having the 2010 Paralympic venues finished this year in
Whistler will play a key role in making sure the Canadian team is in the top
three in medal standings.
“It is an incredible advantage to us,” said Blair McIntosh, who
has just been named the Chef de Mission for the 2010 Paralympic team.
“... We are going to be able to compete and practice on the
field of play where we are going to be competing during the 2010 Games and we
are going to take advantage of that.”
The Chef de Mission makes sure that all logistical and other
issues are taken care of for the team so that athletes can focus on competing.
McIntosh toured the Whistler venues, which will host the
closing ceremonies and all of the Paralympic events except for sledge hockey
and wheelchair curling, last week. The Games, which will host about 1,350
athletes and team officials, will run March 12 to 21, 2010.
“I am very impressed,” he said. “The Nordic facility is just
going to be overwhelming for the athletes. Just the sheer beauty of the
environment is inspiring.
“And we got to drive around the course a sit skier will use and
it is going to be very impressive.”
He encouraged Sea to Sky residents to think about volunteering
for the Paralympics as a way of truly understanding the awesome nature of the
athletes and the event.
“There is a lot of volunteer opportunities available and I
think people will be astounded by the athletic performances of our athletes,
and some of the background stories and the history of our athletes as well,”
“I think the best way to capture what the Paralympic Games are
all about is to volunteer and get involved and I know in a community this size
that that is one of the things that will be a real bonus for our athletes is to
see that the community is that involved.”
There have been concerns voiced in the community about what
role school kids will play in the Paralympics. Traditionally local kids are
taken to see events as a way of educating youth about people with physical
disabilities and to cheer on teams. However, with the school district already
proposing that Whistler schools close for the Olympics some parents are worried
about students missing more classes.
McIntosh said there are many ways for the kids to get involved
with events running at different times of the day, not just during school
hours. It’s something VANOC and the school board will have to work out, he said.
“If there are concerns about closing the school there are going
to be competitions throughout the day and into the evening so there are
different opportunities for (students),” said McIntosh.
“That is something from a VANOC standpoint and a school board
standpoint that they would have to work out. I know it has been done in the
past and it really gives the school an opportunity to learn more about
Paralympic sport. But again, that opportunity will be given through awareness
and education leading up to the Games as well.”
McIntosh and a team from the Canadian Paralympic Committee also
held a day of meetings with VANOC staff in Vancouver.
The two top challenges facing Paralympic sport in Canada right
now, said McIntosh, are recruiting more athletes and continuing to raise
awareness around athletes with physical disabilities.
It’s expected that Canada’s Paralympic team will include 40 to
50 athletes, that’s up from 33 at the Torino 2006 Winter Games.
There will be 60 events at the 2010 Paralympics with the addition
of men’s and women’s alpine super combined — in which alpine skiers will
complete both a super G and a slalom run with the gold medal going to the skier
with the best combined time.
McIntosh is currently the Director of Games for the Sport Alliance of Ontario, and has been a pivotal games consultant or mission staff leader to more than 30 major Games, including the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, 11 Canada Games and the 2000 World Women’s Hockey Championships. He has been the Ontario Team Chef de Mission at the Canada Games four times.