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Whistler Golf Club will be Alberta’s networking hub in 2010

B.C.’s neighbouring province plans to participate, reap benefits of Games

The province of Alberta is full steam ahead in its preparations for the 2010 Games.

In addition to renting six luxury dome cars on the Rocky Mountaineer to shuttle guests between Vancouver and Whistler, the province will also have a home base in each location for its guests.

And so the clubhouse of the Whistler Golf Club will be transformed into a mini Alberta House of sorts - a business/hospitality centre where guests of Alberta can gather after a day in Whistler before getting back on the train and enjoying a five-course meal on the way to back to Vancouver.

"It's a VIP experience," said Russ Tynan, executive director of Alberta's Olympic and Paralympic Secretariat, created over one year ago. "That's what we've touted it to be. It's about business development.

"This is about businesses and colleagues needing to connect with the right people and establishing long-term relationships, and how better to do that than... attending a world class celebration in a great place."

Tynan explained that the province readily jumped on board with plans for 2010 after an official invitation from B.C. and Olympic organizers. The invitation was extended across Canada.

Alberta, however, has the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics under its belt and understands what kind of benefits can come from being a part of 2010.

"We've been fortunate," said Tynan. "We were given the opportunity 20 some odd years ago to host the Olympics and we understand how the world's attention will shift and so we know that invitation we got is pretty magical and pretty special and so we're not going waste it."

The province has committed $6.6 million in new funds for the program. Other funding will come from existing programs.

The world will know the province is at the Games as the train will be wrapped in messaging with the name "Alberta" as it travels through Sea to Sky country.

The top of the line Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf Service dome cars and lounge cars will be used for the occasion.

"It's a great opportunity for us," said Ian Robertson, executive director of corporate communications and public affairs for Rocky Mountaineer Vacations.

The train, which normally does not operate in the winter, will be in special service for 16 days shuttling guests to Whistler in the morning and back again in the evening. The train can carry more than 400 guests each way.

Alberta has also leased the Rocky Mountaineer Station in Vancouver for special events during the Games. There will also be an Alberta House in the city.

Tynan said there have been good responses to date from Alberta's business community, though he could not comment on how many people had signed up for the program.

"There's a level of interest in all of the sectors so far," he said.

Whistler is a hot destination for Alberta's guests, even if they don't have tickets to events.

"What we've discovered is lots of people want to come to Whistler not necessarily to attend the Games but just to come to Whistler," said Tynan.

He added that in addition to pointing them in the direction of shopping and other activities, they are also helping them arrange ski rentals and tickets.

"If your going to do it, you do it right," said Tynan.

He stressed, however, that while Alberta will have a presence at the Games, this is Whistler and Vancouver's time to shine.

"This is Vancouver's and Whistler's celebration," said Tynan. "We're there to celebrate with you."

In early 2008 Alberta and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) signed an accord outlining the province's role before and during the Games. It touched on three main areas: tourism, sport and culture.

In addition to its physical presence in Vancouver and Whistler in February, Alberta committed to providing Canadian athletes priority access to Olympic venues for training.

The province has also committed close to $100 million to renew its Olympic legacy facilities, including renovations at the Canmore Nordic Centre.