Municipal Administrator gets behind the scenes in Athens 

Six days in the sunny streets of Athens during the Olympic Games may seem like an exciting and fun holiday.

But if you’re part of the Athens Observer Program, relaxing is the last thing on the agenda.

Whistler’s Municipal Administrator Jim Godfrey was just one of a handful of representatives from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games to take part in the whirlwind program last week.

"It was a great learning opportunity to see a Games in action," he said.

"I think there’s going to be a lot of lessons that come from it, that will be important for Vancouver and Whistler."

Organizers from the Torino Games and the Beijing Games also took part in the program as well as representatives from the cities bidding for the 2012 Games.

The idea behind the program is to learn from the Athens experience by getting behind the scenes, so future host cities do not have to start from scratch as they plan for their own Games.

Godfrey returned home on Monday, feeling confident that Whistler is up for the task.

"I came away with the feeling that we can do this," he said.

The observer program has three main objectives he explained.

Primarily it allows the observers to meet Athens Organizing Committee venue and functional area managers. They then have an opportunity to ask questions and learn first hand from the ATHOC staff on the ground.

"What I found really quite interesting was that here’s a group of individuals that are staging the Olympic Games and they’re still making themselves available for an observer program in order to provide assistance to future Games operators," said Godfrey.

"It was pretty amazing that they actually had the time to allow observers to come in, watch what they were doing and then respond to questions."

A second objective of the program was that it allowed observers to see how the Games function and watch the ATHOC staff in full Games mode.

Godfrey said one of the things that was emphasized in the observer program is that ATHOC wanted as many decisions made as possible at the actual venue level, rather than bumping them up to the senior executive level.

"So they’re trying to empower the venue managers to be able to make those decisions that affect that particular venue," he said.

The observer program also provided a first hand experience to soak up the Games environment and see how venues and sites are physically laid out.

Godfrey participated in the Olympic Village program, the venue operations and venue overlay program, the look and image program, the city operations program and the main operations centre program.

"It’s actually quite phenomenal," he said.

"You come away very impressed with ATHOC. Their staff was extremely knowledgeable and they were doing a very good job in terms of running the Games."

For Whistler, the size and scale of the Winter Games won’t be nearly as large as the Athens event, but there will be things common to both Games.

And though the Athens experience was a whirlwind work tour, with long days on the observation route, there was also some time to see the athletes in action.

Fortunately the sporting events run late into the evening said Godfrey. This allowed him to see the synchronized diving, beach volleyball, kayaking and swimming, tennis and the Canadian team play baseball.

Deputy Administrator Bill Barratt and General Manager of Community Initiatives Mike Vance are currently in Athens taking part in the same program.

Upon their return the team will examine the lessons they all learned from their Athens experience.

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