Pique n' your interest 

The Oh-lympics

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I have already heard stories of homeowners and investors using the Olympics as a basis for speculation.

Past examples in Salt Lake City and elsewhere have shown that real estate prices spike immediately after the announcement that a bid is successful, and then gradually slip back to "normal" levels – some Whistler owners are waiting for prices to peak so they can cash out.

While this kind of speculation puts some money back in the economy, it does little to meet the long-term needs of Whistler residents and transients.

One developer recently commented that it was "morally wrong" that resort employees were reduced to squatting on a piece of land he wants to build on, and suggested that Whistler’s employees would be better off moving to Pemberton and Squamish.

The fact that we might not want to move is irrelevant, he said – it just isn’t realistic to expect to be able to live here forever with the real estate market being what it is.

It was a brutal but honest appraisal of my own chances for making it in Whistler, and a good example of the kind of capitalist thinking that this council, the next council, and the council after that are up against.

Can the Olympics turn things around for resort employees? Or will we lose more housing than we gain as a result of all the ensuing speculation on real estate?

There are no guarantees either way, so "oh" is about all you can say.

Another reason for the lacklustre response from residents these days is the fact that it really isn’t Whistler’s Olympic bid any longer, no matter how emphatically we are reassured otherwise.

The moment they dropped Whistler’s name from the bid – IOC rules – local interest dropped with it. It is now Vancouver’s bid, and Whistler is just a satellite venue; Park City to the Salt Lake City Games in 2002; Nakiska and Canmore to the Calgary Games in 1988.

Another issue contributing to the oh-factor is the fact that two events that would be of special interest to the Whistler audience, namely snowboarding and freestyle skiing, were moved to venues closer to Vancouver in the early days of the bid site selection process.

That’s not to say that the Nordic, Alpine and bob/luge/skeleton events aren’t exciting, but take a look around – snowboarding and freestyle skiing were made for this town.

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