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VANOC skeptical about Whistler medallions

Thomson says he is not giving up

The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) wrote Tom Thomson this week about his Whistler medallion idea, and it was not an encouraging response.

Standing outside his car near municipal hall Tuesday, councillor Thomson pulled out a print copy of the e-mail from a thick binder and read the reply out loud from Terry Wright, VANOC's vice president of service operations.

"VANOC's position is that any gift to athletes has to be consistent to all athletes, not just athletes in Whistler," Wright wrote.

"Past experience indicates that any inequalities related to athlete gifting are problematic to the National Olympic Committees and athletes.

"The second issue is that the athletes' welcome ceremony is only in Vancouver and with 80 countries... it would not lend itself well to individual presentations. Third, we had asked the medallions be provided to us in advance so they can go into the athletes' welcome gift bags."

Wright ended saying he was not sure a ceremony presentation can be done but someone from VANOC would follow up with the idea.

However, Thomson is not taking the response as a reason to call off the program.

"After the letter this morning and the meeting with the school board, I see a tremendous amount of merit," he said, referring to the school board's tentative support of the program earlier that same day.

"I will continue to go forward until I hit the wall."

He points to several parts of the e-mail that misinterpret his plans for young athletes throughout the Sea to Sky corridor to present commemorative medallions to all athletes competing in Whistler during next winter's Olympics.

"The intention here is to give a local thank you to any Olympic athlete participating in what we consider to be Whistler's portion of the Olympics, and that is the alpine, sliding and Nordic events."

Thomson's idea was born in February this year, after VANOC announced it was moving the official medal ceremonies in Whistler from Celebration Plaza in the village to the sports venues. Thomson hoped commemorative medallions would attract people into the village during the Olympics as well as inspire the Sea to Sky youth.

And even though the medal ceremonies are now back at Celebration Plaza, Thomson said the proposal has gained too much momentum to call it quits just yet.

"The idea has grown exponentially and now we have the school board on side as well as the youth team members and parents who would love to see young people actively engaged and part of some form of the Olympics," Thomson said.

"My fellow councilmen and the mayor thought it was worthy of an attempt to achieve a goal."

He said he would like the people in Whistler to continue giving their support to the cause because there might be opportunities in the future where their help will be required - if money is needed, for example.

"I expect the cost to be considerable, but again I expect it is a worthy enough project to have different organizations come forward and help either by a donation or their time," said Thomson.

"I am sure if we get the green light, it would be like the Canucks bandwagon. Except unlike the Canucks, this is a sure winner."

He added some groups, who he will not name publicly, have already come forward to say they are willing to help out.

Also, Dave Walden from the Sea to  Sky school board told Thomson on Tuesday that he'll take the medallion proposal to his board but without a doubt "the board is wholly in support of having our students involved in the Olympics in meaningful ways.

"Keep working on it Tom."