Melamed travels world on sustainability tour 

Now back in Whistler, mayor plans to share observations

click to enlarge World Tour Mayor Ken Melamed shakes hands with the mayor of Bari, Italy.
  • World Tour Mayor Ken Melamed shakes hands with the mayor of Bari, Italy.

Whistler is not the only place where sustainability in the 2010 Olympics is a hot topic.

Communities around the world are curious to see how the Winter Games can become greener.

Last month, Mayor Ken Melamed was invited by groups in Italy, France and Minnesota to speak about steps Whistler has taken to become more environmentally, economically and socially stable. Among the many stops on his 13-day trip was Annecy, the town that will represent France's bid for the 2018 Olympics.

He also visited another French town that competed for the right to represent France in the Olympic bid.

"The two mayors I spoke to in France felt very strongly that sustainability was going to be an important component of winning any bid for 2018," said Melamed.

"Whistler is now recognized as being a leader in applying sustainability principles in the hosting of an Olympics."

Annecy also plans to send a delegation to Whistler sometime soon to learn more about the bidding process and what it means to be a host community, added Melamed.

The mayor's trip began on March 19 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where an organization called the Alliance for Sustainability invited him to speak. From there, he journeyed to Livigno, in northern Italy, and Bari, in southern Italy, before continuing on to France.

"Livigno is a resort town much like Whistler, and they have actually been studying Whistler for a while," said Melamed.

At each stop, Melamed gave a talk on Whistler's journey to sustainability. And the responses to the Whistler story, said Melamed, were "very similar across the board."

"In general, there is a wide spread acknowledgement about their positive impressions of Whistler's approach and Whistler's leadership," said the mayor.

"A not uncommon reaction - and we receive this reaction across Canada as well - is 'that is great for Whistler, but we are not sure we can do it here.'"

But, he added, in most cases, he got the sense that people were motivated to re-engage and re-invigorate after hearing him speak.

Melamed, too, expanded his awareness of sustainability on his two-week trip.

"I participated in the workshops that I attended, in which there were a variety of presentations," said Melamed. "One of the most invigorating ones was in Bari, where five communities had agreed to participate in a day-long workshop."

All the costs of Melamed's trip were paid for by the organizations that invited him.

Now back in Whistler, Melamed said he was very impressed by the level of engagement he found in France and Italy.

"They seem to be much more engaged in conversations and have a much higher level of political participation," said Melamed.

He added that 100 to 150 people attended most of his sessions, even though half of those people had not heard of Whistler before.

To follow through with his tour, Melamed plans to organize several sessions in Whistler within the next few months to share his observations and "engage the community in conversations about what we are doing towards sustainability, and sustainability in general."

One of those sessions will likely be held in French for francophones in town, he added.

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