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What does Whistler take away from the Games?

After a decade of planning and two weeks of celebrating, the Winter Games have come to a close.

After a decade of planning and two weeks of celebrating, the Winter Games have come to a close. And while it may take years before the Whistler community understands exactly how Canada's largest sporting event in history has impacted the resort municipality, people are slowly starting to consider the ramifications.

This week, Pique Newmagazine spoke to community members about what Whistler can take away from the Games. And while no one had a finite answer to the question, almost everyone agreed the vibrancy and local pride were some of the greatest outcomes of the Olympics.

"Clearly the village handled this event incredibly well," said Drew Meredith, former mayor and realtor. "I think most people that I have been talking to that grew up in the village are so impressed to see it used for what it was originally intended - not that it was built for the Olympics but it was clearly built for a larger crowd than we have ever had."

Meredith pointed out that Whistler needs to stay focused on marketing and building business.

"I think the number one issue that Whistler faces is to build our occupancy and get the business back on stable footing," said Meredith. "We have been suffering for several years and this was the opportunity to shift gears and hopefully come out at the end of the Games with a new Whistler. We definitely showed it off to the world and hopefully that will help us, but clearly the focus of the community has to be on business development."

Garry Watson, long-time community member and former councillor, went so far as to call the energy in Whistler Village throughout the Winter Games "glorious."

"The village was designed for people, with the pedestrian walkways, and that succeeded so well," said Watson. "To see it so full of people was very exciting."

Watson even met with the village's original planner, Eldon Beck, for a fireside chat at one point during the Games. Watson said Beck was blown away at how vibrant the place was.

"He was very excited to see the village so lively," said Watson.

The athletes' village, the CT Scanner, Whistler Olympic Park and the level of volunteerism were also true legacies from the Games, added Watson.

"I would say the greatest legacy of the Games is the athletes' village and the conversion of that to affordable restricted employee housing," said Watson. "That is a very significant social need, and that is what we got. That to me justifies the whole Olympics."

Greg McDonnell, from Whistler Community Services Society, pointed to the community connection as an important asset from the Games.

"The sort of humanity that was represented in the village was really something to behold, that international flavour, everyone having fun," said McDonnell. "I think the Tourism Whistler type folks can really take something away from that in terms of what we offer the community as a resort."

McDonnell also was impressed with how well the bus system worked and how it showed the community that they don't need cars to get by.

If we can do anything to increase the amount of buses that run, we would continue to see more people out of their cars, which would be a treat, he said.

Joey Gibbons, owner of four bars, believes the community should encourage the Olympic demographic to return.

"The demographic that was up here is the people we should be going after because it works," said Gibbons. "We should take a look at who was here, what everyone was doing and figure out how to do that again and again and again and again."

Gibbons hopes that the Olympics help define Whistler and he hopes the community has caught the Olympic spirit.

"We are at our best when we can open our arms to the world and put on a world class event," said Gibbons. "Whistler Village was created for this event and hopefully this event reminds everyone that this is who we are when we are at our best."

Meanwhile, Kendra Mazzei, owner of Burnt Stew Computer Solutions and Pasta Lupino Gourmet, said the community's goal right now should be to ride the positive wave from the Games and to continue to strive to reach those kinds of standards.

"It is going to be difficult for many businesses, and it is a high standard that has been set," said Mazzei. "The bar has been raised."

The media coverage throughout the Games will only be a great thing for Whistler, she added.

"The global awareness that we have achieved from hosting the Games is going to be paramount in continuing the success for the resort."

And Stuart Rempel, from Whistler Blackcomb, said from his experience in prior Olympic Games, the pride of the Games really is the ultimate legacy.

"It is the pride that we have done something that very few communities have done," said Rempel. "We are part of a small club, if you will, of resorts in the world that have had the opportunity to host the Games, and we have done one the best jobs of anybody."

 

 




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