The Olympic tide turns 

More than 2,000 people turn out to mark 100-day countdown to Games


Re-charging the Olympic spirit in Whistler was literally a piece of cake last week as a consortium of organizations held an event to count down 100 days to the Games and showcase the activities happening in Whistler in 2010.

The Nov. 4 event was put together in part to promote Whistler Live!, a network of stages, screens and performance sites throughout the village that will offer unique programming throughout the Games.

The event at the TELUS Whistler Conference Centre served as a kind of microcosm of Whistler Village in three months' time, as probably a fifth of Whistler's population came out to see performances by artists such as the Hairfarmers, Kuba Oms and DJ Foxy Moron.

There were also special guest appearances by current and former Olympic athletes including Britt Janyk, Alan Kristmanson and Julia Murray.

All told, about 2,200 people came to bathe in Olympic glory in an event that Whistler Live! Festival Director Kristen Robinson called a "gold medal performance." She'd know - she produced it.

"We were planning for around 600 people and we thought that would be a comfortable number," she said. "I think it's a great opportunity... for people to get a better sense of what's going on, that's free in the village, where they can bring their friends and family and be able to fit in there."

The mood at the centre was a marked departure from the past few months that have seen a lot of griping from community members about the upcoming Games. Last July Pique published a feature titled "In search of Olympic spirit" that marked a serious lack thereof.

Longtime Whistlerites admitted noticing a serious lack of spirit in town, with some people packing up and leaving during the Games altogether, while others complained that they weren't getting enough information from the organizers.

It was enough for Mayor Ken Melamed to admit in the Globe and Mail that Whistlerites have become a "cantankerous lot," although it's uncertain whether he said those words himself.

A whole new spirit was on display Nov. 4 as parents brought eager kids to roll and play in the conference centre ballroom, get their faces painted and gladhand with Olympic mascots Quatchi, Sumi and Miga.

Melamed glowed as he spoke on stage, thanking the community profusely as he prepared to cut his 20 th cake in advance of the Games.

"It was a tremendous, exciting experience for me to be a part of that Canadian delegation to bring the flame back," he said of traveling the previous week with the flame from Athens, Greece.

"I have to tell you I'm as excited tonight to see the turnout, I just can't thank you enough. Life is so full of surprises like this so thank you everyone for coming.

"We have 100 days to go, I think it's pretty much drummed into you by now, the point is that it's the final milestone, it's the final cake on the road to showing Whistler's support for the Canadian athletes."

Janyk, working the crowd, noticed a marked turnaround in the Olympic spirit.

"I think that with each week that goes by, the atmosphere and energy gets bigger and bigger and people are really excited to have the Olympic Games."

Asked how she thought the attitude towards the Games has changed, she acknowledged there are differing opinions but she kept up a happy face.

"Yes, I think it's a bit mixed," she said. "But right now it's 100 days and in February I think everyone here in Whistler will be very excited to have the Games."


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