Second to none 

In three years some of the most incredible athletes in the world will be competing in Whistler at the 2010 Paralympic Games

By Clare Ogilvie

Three-time Paralympian Phil Chew is counting the days until Whistler welcomes the world’s most elite athletes with disabilities.

“I think it will be fabulous in Whistler,” said Chew, now a full time coach with the B.C. Disabled Alpine Ski Team, which grooms local athletes as they pursue their dream of going for gold.

“The venues here are fabulous. It is starting to be a more accessible place. In fact I think Whistler will probably be the most accessible Olympics to date.”

Three years from now Whistler and Vancouver will be hosting the Paralympics, which are expected to bring up to 1,300 athletes and team officials from 40 countries for the 10-day Games running March 10 to 21. In all there will be 56 medal events. About 1,300 media are expected to cover the competitions, many of which will be televised.

It is the first time that Canada has hosted the Paralympic Winter Games.

Now that much of the preparations for the Olympics are well underway intense planning for the Paralympics is front and centre and that includes encompassing the lessons learned in Torino.

With 12 days to transition from Olympic Games to Paralympic Games mode, planning and precision is critical in all areas. Attention to the conversion of integrated planning for accessibility, such as building ramps and accessible routes into the venues prior to the start of the Olympic Games, makes for less changeover during the transition period.

And while preparations seem to be going smoothly they have not been without hurdles. During the bid phase the International and Canadian Paralympics Committees were wowed with a vision, which saw all the Paralympic events hosted in Whistler — the first time such a compact venue had been offered up.

From Whistler’s point of view it was good news too since there would be a new ice arena as a legacy. But rising construction costs put an end to the dream, which was to be partially funded by the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and now ice sledge hockey, one of the most popular events, will be held in Vancouver, along with wheelchair curling.

The decision last year to give up the ice arena split the community.

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