Municipal election an opportunity to discuss Olympic bid A lot of people in Whistler seem to feel, perhaps rightly, that the bid for the 2010 Olympics is being pushed on them with little consultation. If that is the case, the municipal election is the time for discussion. The Olympic bid hasn’t exactly been a secret — there were a lot of enthusiastic supporters in the conference centre last December when it was announced the Canadian Olympic Association had chosen the Vancouver/Whistler bid over Calgary and Quebec City. But where or with whom the bid originated and why Whistler is pursuing the Games is still a bit hazy in most people’s minds. Although bid organizers conducted a telephone poll of Whistler residents last year, most people still don’t seem to feel they’ve been consulted or informed. In fact, the Vancouver/Whistler Olympic bid is probably one of the quietest campaigns in the recent history of the Games, for a number of reasons. First of all, all three candidates for the 2010 Winter Olympics agreed, in a meeting with the COA last November in Toronto, that they wouldn’t openly campaign until after Toronto’s bid for the 2008 Summer Games is dealt with by the International Olympic Committee in 2001. Secondly, bid organizers have a lot of work to do as far as putting together details of the bid and they want to build momentum leading up to the 2003 decision, rather than try and sustain a high level of interest for three or four years. But thirdly, and probably most importantly, the provincial government is the official signatory for the Olympic bid. That’s the same provincial government that has to figure out who their leader will be next year, never mind worry about an Olympics 10 years away. The question for many Whistler residents — and Vancouver residents — is why should we host the Olympics. The standard response in Whistler is "we’re not doing this because we need to, we’re doing this because we can and think we can do a good job." The people involved in the Whistler end of the bid have made it very clear to the Vancouver people that in order for Whistler to support the bid it must be done within the existing and planned local infrastructure. In other words, it won’t mean building athletes’ villages or huge new developments, aside from the nordic centre proposed for the Callaghan Valley. What it could and should mean is some long-range planning and badly needed improvements to the transportation infrastructure between Whistler and Vancouver and through much of the Lower Mainland. It would also mean marketing opportunities for the entire region. What will it cost? If you asked 100 accountants to measure the financial impact of hosting an Olympics you’d get 100 different figures. Be that as it may, the Olympics are now said to generate a billion dollar economy for the host city or region. That will likely grow by 2010, as business opportunities and broadcast rights through the internet become more defined and the price of everything else goes up. How much it costs to prepare for that billion dollar influx is another multiple-choice exercise in accounting, but the business people involved in the bid have given assurances there are profits to be made for Whistler and Vancouver, as well as training funds for athletes and other legacies. The councillors elected in Whistler and Vancouver on Nov. 20 will be in power until November of 2002, just six months before the IOC awards the 2010 Games. Will the Olympics be an election issue in Vancouver? It’s unlikely most of Vancouver even knows about the Olympic bid. Will the Olympics be an election issue in Whistler? Only if the voters make it one.


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