Enlightenment arrives, details to follow

Perhaps it's telling that VANOC will finally reveal its long-awaited transportation plan after most of the Olympic test events are over. You would have had a hard time convincing anyone in the seven-kilometre lineup to Whistler Olympic Park last weekend that there was already a plan in place.

It's probably unfair to associate last weekend's lineups, which were likely the result of a combination of factors that won't be in effect during the Olympics, or possibly any other time, with the Games themselves. Perfect weather, free entry to World Cup events, the Nordic centre's growing reputation, good cross-country skiing and challenging conditions for alpine skiing all helped draw people to the Callaghan in numbers that no one was prepared for. The result was a long, narrow parking lot and a lot of frustrated people.

The ski jumping events themselves went off superbly well, just as did the previous weekend's cross-country races and Nordic combined events. And it's the venues and the event organization that VANOC has been testing. The fact that Whistler Olympic Park looked great on television to millions of viewers in Europe got Whistler people excited, but it's incidental to VANOC.

This should be clear to Whistler by now. Last year's alpine World Cup test events finished at the Timing Flats on Whistler Mountain and were hardly spectator-friendly. They were shown on a video screen in Village Square, but other than that there was little indication in the valley that the best ski racers in the world were in town. The races could have been taking place in Tuktoyaktuk for all most people knew.

To see the past two weekends of competition at Whistler Olympic Park you had to be there, or your cable subscription had to include the Bold network, which showed the events hours later. There was no large screen, live video in the village. Again, for most people in the heart of Whistler the events could have been taking place in Tuktoyaktuk.

Next weekend the bobsled and skeleton World Cup comes to the Whistler Sliding Centre. It will be closer to the village than the alpine or Nordic events, but whether there's any sense of the event in the village remains to be seen.

The pre-Olympic test events, and the decision to scrap the awarding of Olympic medals in Celebration Plaza, have shown that VANOC is sticking closely to its mandate. VANOC doesn't have to look after Whistler's wants and desires. It does have to work within its budget.

The medals issue was dealt with at a two-hour in camera meeting Tuesday between Whistler council and VANOC's John Furlong and Terry Wright. Whistler's councillors came out of the meeting "enlightened", "satisfied" that VANOC is going to work hard to bring business to the village, and resigned to the fact that the medals ceremonies are gone.

Why the enlightenment took place at an in camera meeting instead of a public meeting is not clear. And it won't help VANOC's image in Whistler. Getting details from VANOC about anything other than the venues themselves has always been tougher than shoe leather, the long-awaited transportation plan being an example.

But Whistler, with its strata-titled hotel rooms, threw a wrench into VANOC's accommodation plans, which affects most other aspects of VANOC's plans.

And councillors who last month wouldn't even entertain a motion to consider third reading to the TCUPs bylaw VANOC needs, seem to have been persuaded that VANOC is listening. Details of what VANOC is planning for Celebration Plaza will come out in the next few weeks. Mayor Ken Melamed said he thinks people will be satisfied with the plan.

Whistler merchants' concerns about temporary commercial use permits and temporary operators scooping business in the village during the Games also appear to have been answered. Retail and food and beverage tents will be limited to the Olympic venues for a specific period of time and kept out of the village, although they may be allowed in Celebration Plaza.

So the decisions have been made, but as has been the case with the Olympics from the beginning, we'll have to wait to find out many of the details.

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