February 18, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

Olympic Games raise profile of Whistler as cultural destination 

Continued funding key to ongoing success

Page 5 of 6

"People have said, 'It is important. We do feel that that's important, coming here, that there's something to do besides hurl myself off a mountain when I'm 60, or 55, or five years old!'" says Niedermayer.

Of course, we can't forget the RMOW's Cultural Tourism study, commissioned through federal funds provided by Whistler's designation as a Cultural Capital of Canada in 2009. But much like Highway 99, those are spin-offs that aren't technically part of our "Games' legacy."

"Perhaps the fact that Whistler was going to host the Games had something to do with the fact that we were designated a Cultural Capital in 2009," Niedermayer muses, thoughtfully. "However, we actually had a really good proposal, a really strong application, and a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into that. I'm thinking that even if we took away the Olympics, we still had a solid proposal."

She's confident that the Games gave our arts and culture sector a definite boost, even allowing them to develop their relationships with federal and provincial government agencies, and other key groups.

"I think the Olympics was a catalyst," says Niedermayer.

"It wasn't the sole reason or the only thing, but the Olympics moved us forward faster."

They're already seeing more interest from touring artists and groups who are interested in coming to Whistler, and she expects that will only continue to grow when Whistler Celebration Plaza is up and running. And in a very general sense, the Games-time programming has also created a greater cultural appetite within the community.

Adds Niedermayer: "People that came out have incredible memories and I think that they did get a spirit."

 

Where do we go from here?

 

Whistler's artistic community saw a huge influx of funding from all levels of government in the years leading up to and during the Olympics. Unfortunately, we aren't as flush in the post-Olympic period.

"I think what's hardest is living in a new reality, afterwards, when the money is gone!" Niedermayer laughs. "We had the talent, we had the ideas, we definitely made some mistakes along the way, but I'll tell you, those funding partners were very forgiving of our mistakes."

One such project was our ill-fated aerial dance project, which had to be scrapped when organizers realized we didn't have a building that was tall enough to make the performance a success. As Niedermayer points out, they were commissioning new works, and sometimes, new works just don't work out.

"It's not like we didn't try, so our efforts were 100 per cent," she says.

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