Editorial 

The Olympics should spark some emotions

With the opening ceremonies barely four months away, finally there is a little emotion bubbling to the surface of what have been the placid waters of the 2010 Olympics.

Unfortunately it's the sort of antipathy Canadians feel for another town's hockey team.

While VANOC, the RMOW, the ISU and numerous other acronyms beavered away at their preparations for the Games, anecdotal evidence suggested Whistlerites' preparations amounted to surfing travel websites for the best deals in Hawaii during February. The Olympics, the spark that ignited development of Whistler as a ski area in the 1960s, just didn't resonate with people. The venues were lovely, built without controversy, but were largely out of sight and therefore out of mind. And other than the venues, meaningful details about the Olympics were scarce.

"Passion Lives Here" was the motto for the 2006 Olympics in Torino, a motto that TOROC CEO and former mayor Valentino Castellani described as "a kind of provocation in our city."

"With Glowing Hearts" perfectly summed up Whistler's feelings for the 2010 Olympics: we hope to feel good about them, but we don't want to over-commit ourselves.

Well, finally, a little passion lives here. It comes from luger Regan Lauscher, the seven-time Canadian champion whose biggest challenge at the moment is surviving life in British Columbia. In her blog posting on Monday the Albertan bemoaned the lack of support for the Olympics in Whistler and the fear she feels while wearing her team jacket or cheering for the Calgary Flames.

Of course it became a national story within hours. Whistler politicians were polled for their reactions. Whistler residents were questioned about their patriotism. Was there really that much anti-Olympic sentiment in the 2010 Host Mountain Resort?

The luger may have pulled the trigger, or pushed the "send" button, a little prematurely (belittling someone else's hometown is rarely a good idea, especially when you have to live there), but she got people in Whistler thinking about where they stand on the Olympics and their hometown.

So too has Sara Jennings, one of the first people born and raised in Whistler. Jennings has announced plans to protest during the Olympics, which has led to inquiries from the Integrated Security Unit.

The ISU, part of the $900 million Olympic security program, was criticized in the Vancouver media this week for questioning the ex-wife of Chris Shaw. Shaw is well known for his anti-Olympic stance. His ex-wife has no apparent connection to the Games.

The ISU's interest in Jennings - and others - and Lauscher's opinion of Whistler are lamentable. But they bring the Games into context in a way that VANOC and the municipality have failed to do. To listen to officials, the Olympics are about numbers, dollars, efficiencies, strategies, contractual obligations.

They are, in fact, about people.

Some people are passionate about the Games, some are passionately against the Games, and some try to balance the contradictions and compromises that come with something so all-encompassing as the Olympics. Everyone that is here for the Games will have a story about their experience in Whistler.

I hope one of the stories is Sara Jennings' peaceful protests and how the ISU wasted their time and our money investigating her.

I hope one of the stories is Regan Lauscher winning a medal and Whistlerites cheering for her.

Whether either of those stories turns out that way remains to be seen. There is some bridge mending and explaining to do in the few months that remain before the Games.

But we are past the point where Whistlerites can afford to be indifferent to the Olympics.

 

 

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