An opportunity to make poetry

It is Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010. It has taken a lifetime to get here.

Not everyone who started this journey has made it this far. Not everyone wants to be here. But here we are. Not by default or accident, but by design. We can argue the merits of that design and who came up with the plan, but at this point it's not particularly relevant. Here we are, on the eve of hosting the 21 st Winter Olympics and all that they encompass.

For millions around the world, the Olympics will be just a television show - or a series of tweets on Twitter. But for those of us who have chosen to be part of it, this is flesh and blood. It's people. It's the product of years of effort. It's setting goals and doing your best to achieve them.

And it's opportunity.

In a country brimming with opportunity, where we too often hear of missed opportunities and wasted opportunities, we may not realize the full value of what we have. Opportunity is one the most precious gifts in the world. It's a chance to do something better; it's something many people never get their whole lives.

We can debate Olympic ideals, the IOC and the hypocrisy within that organization, the corporatization of sport and the money spent to stage these Games. Those negative aspects are juxtaposed with the opportunities and the individual accomplishments that are also part of the Games. These include much more than the bottom line measurement of winning medals and defeating opponents. The 183 people who carried the Olympic torch through Whistler last week represent individual accomplishment as well as or better than many Olympians.

They, too, represent opportunity.

If you think of time as a linear construct, the 2010 Olympics are a measurement, one of the significant mileposts along the way in the life of Whistler and the life of its inhabitants. It has been a long journey. Amidst the anxiety and excitement of the moment, we should take time to reflect on how we got here.

"We" are Tyler Allison, the community's choice - an inspired choice - to light the cauldron in Whistler last Friday.

"We" are Gibby Jacob, sitting in the cellar of a centuries-old building in Prague on July 2, 2003, a big cigar in one hand, a big glass of Czech beer in the other hand and an enormous, satisfied grin on his face as he thought about the future of the Squamish Nation.

"We" are Walter Zebrowski, egg farmer from Burnaby and before that, Polish soldier. Walter was captured twice by the Nazis and escaped twice. He carried his skis across Europe and North Africa before settling in Whistler and building Nordic Estates, among many other things.

"We" are Brian McKeever, the legally blind cross-country skier who in the next month will become the first athlete to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics.

"We" are Regan Lauscher, the luge team member who blogged that she was afraid to show her Albertaness in Whistler.

"We" are Garry Watson, member of the 1960 Garibaldi Olympic Development Association, alderman in Whistler's crucial formative years and tireless advocate for resident housing.

"We" are Jack Poole and John Furlong, Metis and Irish immigrants; Olympic visionaries.

"We" are Franz Wilhelmsen and Hugh Smythe, the men behind Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb.

We don't always celebrate success. This is one of the opportunities we have right now.

Many people know Whistler for the skiing and the natural environment, but we are much more than a pretty setting. The American writer Wallace Stegner said "No place is a place" until two things have happened: one, "things that have happened in it are remembered in history, ballads, yarns, legends or monuments"; and two, "it has had that human attention that at its highest reach we call poetry."

Legends and history are already abundant here. More will surely be made in Whistler over the next month.

We also have the opportunity to make poetry. Not everyone has that chance.




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