For decades, Whistler Councillor and artist Tom Thomson has
been giving homemade medallions to people who have spent time on the mountains
skiing or snowboarding with him.
The present is something people can wear around their necks or
hang on their wall to remember the experience.
Now he wants to do the same for the more than 3,700 athletes
who will stay and compete in Whistler during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic
Games. He wants the athletes to receive special Whistler medallions at
presentations every evening in Celebration Plaza.
VANOC announced last month that the medals presentations for
the Whistler events would take place at the sports venues, rather than at
Celebration Plaza. The announcement came several months after the Celebration
Plaza site was cleared of most trees.
“The plaza is taking a kicking right now, it’s been kicked, but
I looked at the empty glass that it is and said we have to find a way to fill
it,” said Thomson.
Thomson is suggesting specially designed medallions be
presented to the medalists in each event, the Canadians who took part that day,
and to any of the athletes who took part in the competition and show up at the
plaza. It would be completely optional for the athletes, but Thomson wants them
to go home with something from the community of Whistler.
“Wouldn’t it be neat if we could give them a memento, a token
saying ‘thanks for coming here and competing your heart out,’” said Thomson. He
noted that there is a precedent for these kinds of gifts and presentations at
other Games. “They would go home with something substantial and beautiful that
is uniquely Whistler.”
It’s just an idea at this point, but Thomson has discussed it
with other members of Whistler council, who are receptive of the idea, as well
as the Whistler Arts Council.
Thomson is suggesting a contest where the community would
choose the winning design in a vote. The municipality would then obtain or set
aside funding to produce enough of the medallions to present to athletes and
other notable people. The presentations would be made in between musical acts
on the main stage each evening, with thousands of spectators there to cheer on
Although there won’t be as much security nor any official 2010
overlay at Celebration Plaza, Thomson believes that the athletes will come.
“Say you’re an athlete that won a cross-country sprint event,
and you have three or four days to the next event… you’re not going to stay in
the athletes’ village. Wouldn’t you want to show up to stand beside the other
athletes, and enjoy the experience?”
It’s also a chance to celebrate and support Canadian athletes
who might not land on the podium, says Thomson, and for fans to show their
appreciation for the effort and years of sacrifice that athletes have made just
to be able to compete in the Games.
Thomson knows that the clock is ticking, and hopes to bring the
idea in a more formal way to council in the next few weeks, before launching a
contest. He doesn’t know what it will cost or where the money will come from,
but he says it’s important to get the idea out now so there will be time to
solve any issues that might arise.
While he would like the support of VANOC he doesn’t believe
it’s necessary as long as the medallions don’t mention the Games or use Olympic
imagery. Because the plaza is no longer an official venue Thomson says there’s
more leeway for Whistler to plan what takes place there during the Games.
“Basically there is zero downside, and a great upside,” said Thomson. “It’s a small something we can give the athletes on behalf of Whistler for coming and sharing our wonderful place.”