The 1976 Winter Olympics: A Dream Almost Realized

In May 1970 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gathered in Amsterdam to choose the winning bid for the 1976 Winter Olympics.  Vancouver/Garibaldi, Denver (USA), Sion (Switzerland) and Tampere (Finland) were all in the running to host the 1976 Winter Olympic Games.

However, Vancouver/Garibaldi ended up being taken out of the running because the IOC chose Montreal to host the Summer Olympics in 1976.  The Winter Games were awarded to Denver, Colorado instead.

The logo for the 1976 bid drew heavily on the design of the relatively new Canadian flag.

But the political climate the changing in the 1970s and in the face of growing environmentalist movements and concerns over the expenditures made to host an Olympic Games, Denver decided to hold a referendum on hosting the mega-event.  The “No Games” side won the referendum – and to this day, it is the only city and state to reject the Olympic Winter Games after successfully winning a bid.

The referendum was held on November 15, 1972.  It left the IOC in a lurch and the Olympic Committee, thinking it easier to have the Games remain in North America, offered them to Vancouver/Garibaldi.

The Government of Canada was willing to chip in $10 million to help Vancouver and Garibaldi host the 1976 Winter Olympics, as long as the provincial government provided matching funding.

The 1976 bid even had federal support from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who often skied at Whistler.

Dave Barrett, Premier of British Columbia and leader of the first NDP government in British Columbia, had been in office for two months when the issue of hosting the Games came up.  He felt the money would be better spent on other priorities as opposed to hosting the Olympics.

W.A.C. Bennett, who had just lost to Barrett and was the leader of the Social Credit Party, claimed he would have given the Vancouver/Garibaldi Olympic Committee the money.

John Fraser, President of the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA) at the time, felt that, because of the recent government change and as local support for the Games was at an all-time low following the initial bid rejection, it wasn’t the best time to host the Winter Games.  They too passed on hosting the 1976 Winter Olympics.

Whistler today would look very different if the 1976 bid had been successful.

Other commentators were disappointed, but at the same time relieved that the Garibaldi area and Whistler would be able to develop at a more leisurely pace.

John Jerome wrote an article in Skiing in 1971 titled, “I’m Glad Whistler lost the Olympic Bid – Glad, do you hear?”  In it he said “… I felt their immense disappointment keenly; I knew how bloody hard and long they had worked for that award; I loved them for their effort.  But deep down inside I was glad they failed.”

The IOC ended up reusing a past host site to hold the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, the site of the 1964 Winter Olympics.  This was the first time in the modern Olympic Games that a site hosted the Olympics twice.

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This Week in Photos: February 15

These photos from the Whistler Question show a much smaller Whistler, where everything from a visit by the Governor General, to a snowblower surviving an encounter with a train, to a visiting Rotary exchange student, to a mysterious explosion in a Longhorn toilet are recorded together in the paper.

1979

Whistler as it should be – Doug Read gets into it on “Upper Insanity” on Friday.

An RCMP under-ice diving training school was held on Alta Lake during the past week. Scott Alpen photo.

A view of the Whistler Vale complex with the old Cheakamus Inn in front and the new units to the left and behind.

1980

Squaw Valley Crescent takes some of the overflow parking from Lake Placid Road.

Bob Matheson works on the new Superior Muffler pipe bending machine.

Sunshine and good skiing – the way it has been on the top of Whistler for the past week.

CKVU’s Ralph (Raccoon) Carney interviews Tom Jarvis, Beau Jarvis and Peaches Grant at Beau’s on Sunday evening.

Nicholas Busdon heads across the finish line in the Elementary Boys race.

1981

Chef/owner of the Black Bear Geoffrey Howes and Patty Harvey at work in the kitchen.

The vehicle Steve Podborski was driving and the Toyota driven by Kathy Rollo after the February 14 accident.

Rotarian Frank Satre and Whistler’s exchange student, Teresa Delgado from Chihuahua, Mexico.

Franz and Annette Wilhelmsen (front) and Debbie and Hugh Smythe (rear) enjoy dinner at the opening of Stoney’s restaurant last week.

1982

With the reddest of heart and the fleetest of foot, a be-winged Cindy Woods turned into cupid for a day (guess which one) to deliver flowers throughout the valley for Valley Vines & Petals.

All bagged up and ready to go – Sue Spurrell, Dave Barnes and Leslie Christmas, all from Newfoundland, try out the x-country skiing at Whistler Village wearing Blackcomb bags for protection.

Kermit joins the happy gang at Stoney’s who celebrated their first birthday Monday, February 15. Ball team members are (l to r) Bruce Fox, manager; Jack Cram and Lance Fletched who co-own the restaurant with Dick Gibbons; and Fetah Benali, chef.

Fire in Alpine! It was nearly one month to the day since fire raged through the Whistler Village Inn, when Whistler’s Volunteer Fire Depart. was called out to a blazing cabin in Alpine Meadows. The fire fighters subdued the blaze at 8340 Needles Drive in about 35 minutes.

Testimony to the durability of the Toro snowblower. One wheel points to the sky but the machine is still in one piece after being struck and dragged 200 metres by a BCR train.

1983

The Japanese version of Johnny Carson was being filmed at Blackcomb Mountain Monday, February 14. Akiko Kobayashi, a TV personality, and Sachiko Sakulay, an actress, are on Willie Whistler’s right and Miss Ski Japan Yukali Yamada and host Tommy Yakota stand on his left.

Shovelling snow outside the Hearthstone Lodge (before the advent of heated steps).

Let’s get Springfit! Adult Education classes in fitness continue with instructors (l to r) Debi Mitchell, Jan Alsop and Shelley Cerasaro. These ladies will take you through a vigorous program of warm-ups, aerobic workouts, calisthenics and stretching.

Canada’s Governor General Ed Schreyer (second from right) hit the slopes of Whistler Mountain Tuesday. Both he and Mrs. Schreyer received some tips from Bob Dufour and Dave Murray while enjoying their five-day vacation.

A sound “like someone dropping a huge sheet of metal” turned out to be an explosion which destroyed cubicle number three in the women’s washroom of the Longhorn Pub Thursday, February 10. A similar explosive device was used to blow up a garbage can in the Longhorn Saturday, February 12 and a 31-year-old New Westminster man, Clifford Michael Balkwill, has been charged with use of a dangerous explosive in connection with the second incident. The explosives, known as “fish salutes”, are manufactured for anglers to scare seals away from their prey.

1985

Firemen and residents were able to rescue some possessions from burning condos at Alpine Village Saturday, but losses were heavy and by the next day insurance investigators were already on the scene.

Whistler Mountain celebrated 20 years with some familiar faces (as well as cake, clowns and more).

Whistler Mountain created a new sport Saturday: Gondola stuffing!

The kids’ team stuffed the most bodies into the gondola with 27, while the counterweights (a minimum of 200 lbs each) could only manage nine.

Mike Davidson of the Alta Lake Sports Club will even spend time in the brig if it means hanging onto his hobby cannons. The one-pounder above was made by Great West Cannon Co. of Granville Island and is authentic in size and workmanship to the original, Davidson says. It was often hoisted into a ship’s rigging and used to fire nails and other shrapnel at the enemy. Davidson uses the cannon to proclaim open the various sporting events but two years ago found himself in RCMP lock-up for four hours when a policeman arrested him for discharging a firearm in the municipality. But it’s all in good fun, and the only thing fired is paper.

GODA’s Many Olympic Bids

With the 2018 Winter Olympics going on in PyeongChang we’re taking a look back at Whistler’s own Olympic past.

There’s no doubt that over the past six decades this town has been greatly influenced by the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.  If the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA) had had their way, this month would mark the 50th anniversary of Whistler’s Olympic Games instead of the 8th.

In 1960 a group of Vancouver businessmen and Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) members formed GODA with the aim of bringing the Olympic Winter Games to BC.  In the introduction to their bid for the 1968 Olympics, GODA wrote: “In the northwestern part of Garibaldi Park, only 75 road miles from Vancouver, and part of a picture-post card panorama of mountains, snow and forest is Whistler Mountain, proposed site of the 1968 Olympic Winter Games.  It is this mountain and this area that offers the ideal physical location for the Games.”

Driving to Whistler, 1959. Not quite as easy as they made it sound.  MacLaurin Collection.

What their introduction didn’t mention was that the 75 road miles were mostly logging roads and a difficult drive at the best of times, or that the site had no power, water or sewer and all venues and facilities would have to be constructed form scratch.

Not surprisingly, GODA’s first bid was not successful and Banff, Alberta was put forward as Canada’s nomination.  In the end the 1968 Games were held in Grenoble, France.

GODA looked to the future and formed Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. to develop Whistler Mountain.  Five years later, with lifts now installed and paved highway linking the site to Vancouver, they put forward another bid for the 1972 Games.  Again the COC chose Banff to represent Canada (Banff then lost to Sapporo, Japan) and again GODA went back to work on another bid.

Three separate combined Vancouver/Whistler bids were put forward through the 1970s.  By 1970, when the bid for the 1976 Games was put forth, Whistler Mountain had become an established ski resort and was continuing to grow.  This bid received endorsement from the COC and was put forward as an official national bid.  Because of this, we are fortunate today to have many records of the vision for the 1976 Games.

The 1976 bid even had federal support from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who often skied at Whistler.  Whistler Mountain Collection.

The official Vancouver/Garibaldi bid book included designs for a purpose-built Olympic Town Site located at the site of today’s Whistler Village, including a grand pedestrian concourse to the bottom of the mountain, sloping angular buildings, and a large plaza with a view of the ski jumps.  The bid promised that all Olympic facilities would be within a 4 km radius of the town site.

Despite a strong bid for Whistler, Montreal’s successful bid the 1976 Summer Games mean the Winter Games could not be awarded to Canada.  Denver, Colorado was chosen but, due to public outcry over environmental impacts and rising costs, Denver declined.  The Games were then offered to Whistler, but a newly elected Social Credit government in BC turned them down and the Games returned to Innsbruck, Austria.

In 1974, the COC approved a bid for the 1980 Games but this was rejected by the provincial government.  In 1979 Whistler and Vancouver put forward a proposal to host the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, but the COC decided on the ultimately successful bid from Calgary.  It was not until 2003, over 40 years after the first bid was put forth, that Whistler learned it would host the Olympics.

Village Square during the 2003 Olympic Bid Announcement – Whistler finally got to host the Olympics.

Over the next two months, as the Games take place in PyeongChang, we’ll all be reminded of the 2010 Games and the experience of playing host to such a massive event.  If you’ve ever wondered how the planning and details that went into that experience all came together in Whistler, you might just get some answers at our next Speaker Series.  Thursday, February 15, the Whistler Museum is delighted to welcome John Rae, Mo Douglas and Kristen Robinson for Behind the Games: Creating the 2010 Olympic Experience.  For more information check here.

This Week in Photos: February 8

You might have noticed that while the Whistler Question Collection covers the years 1978 – 1985 not all years are shown in This Week in Photos.  The simple explanation is that the photos for some weeks are missing, damaged or in the possession of the photographer.  We’re looking forward to April when we can start sharing more photos of 1978 and 1984!

1979

And they’re off! At the mass start of the Molson Cup race held in Whistler recently.

Whistler hockey players faced the Budget team on Wednesday night and made the front page of the paper!

The new sign at the White Gold Inn (better known today as Whistler’s beloved Boot and Shoestring Lodge) was recently damaged by vandals. After this picture was taken, it was further vandalized.

A red tag and bylaw notice posted on Whistler Vale buildings.

The children’s corner at the new Pemberton Library promises to be well used.

1980

You can’t really tell, but this was the brand new powder blue RCMP vehicle in the valley!

1924-style swimmer Grace at the Pemberton Teachers Frolic – though the costumes look great, what the teachers were up to is anyone’s guess.

Cross country enthusiast Nello Busdon carefully waxes his skis before heading out on the Lost Lake Trail.

1981

THE stop sign in Whistler Village – a newsworthy addition to town.

New Whistler pharmacist Neil Massoud at work in Whistler United Pharmacy.

The Sears catalogue store in Pemberton on the Perkins property that was used up until February 10.

Gay Parker-McCain with baby Dana at the ‘Well Baby Clinic’ with Public Health Nurse Marilyn McIvor.

Manager Rob Nelms stands behind the remodelled bar at Dino’s, now open for business!

1982

The official map of Whistler Village as of 1982. Can you tell what’s still to come?

Competitors are photographed twice in the Pacific Western ProTour held on Blackcomb Mountain.

Vancouver’s Hellenic dancers perform at L’Apres’ Greek Night on February 5.

Ken Thornton of Tapley’s Pub soaks up a few rays while catching up on a little news during Whistler’s recent sunny spell.

Dogcatcher Geoff Playfair who is having a busy time with the Whistler strays.

A snowy view of the Husky and Creekside.

1983

Wowee – it was a hot time in the old town with the swoons and tunes of Vancouver’s R&B All Stars who cranked up the energy level in Delta’s Stumps Lounge to maximum enjoyment last weekend.

A face from yesteryear – Scott Paxton, who worked at The Keg at the Mountain many years ago when it was located in Whistler Cay has now resurfaced at the new Keg as the official “bunmaster”. Paxton and fellow employees geared up for the opening night at The Keg Friday, February 4 for another era of Keg lovers.

Guy Labelle connects one of the power hook ups being installed in the overnight parking lot to make life a little more comfortable for Whistler’s RV visitors. While partial services are now available, full-service pads may be a long time coming.

Heading for the finish must be lot easier when you’ve got wings!

The Brandywine Inn display suite developed a bit of a list as it was being moved off its foundations February 3. Nickel Brothers house movers recovered the situation by jacking up the building and rearranging a wooden ramp which had collapsed under it. The house was enrolee to High Forest.

Mitch Sulkers, Snowcat crew, Blackcomb. Those who answered the Question’s weekly question had their portraits published, often with their occupation and neighbourhood of residence.

1985

Corporate Cup teams ran, hopped, slid and jumped through an obstacle course wearing snowshoes Saturday at Myrtle Philip School.

Ken Domries (right) shows Paul Grilles (middle) and Glen Mitchell how to operate the Whistler Volunteer Fire Department’s ladder truck. The $20,000 LTI pumps out 4,500 litres a minute of water and is usually operated by a five-man crew.

Whistler Mountain day skiers stand in line Saturday for refunds after the power to the north side lift system went out of commission. Inconvenienced skiers were given refunds, food vouchers and hot drinks while the mountain’s staff coaxed the lifts into operation again.

Grand prize winner, Paul Burrows (right), receives his pair of Blizzard Quattro skis from Nigel Woods, president of Coastal Mountain. Unfortunately, the caption for this photo failed to mention what the prize was for.

February Speaker Series

The Whistler Museum’s 2018 Speaker Series is back this month with Behind the Games: Creating the 2010 Olympic Experience.

Hosting the Olympic Games involves a lot more than organizing and holding sporting competitions (though that is a huge undertaking for any organization).  Host cities also host performances, cultural exhibitions and more to engage visitors and residents throughout the two months and create a memorable experience of a place.  It’s been 8 years since Whistler and Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympic Games and John Rae, Maureen “Mo” Douglas and Kristen Robinson will be sharing the planning and stories that went on behind the scenes.  From planning at the beginning to presenting the Games on the frontline in Whistler, these three speakers have just about seen it all.

Kids Après: Family Day

Our popular Kids Après is back for Family Day Weekend, February 7th to 9th from 3-6pm. This is a great chance to bring your youngsters by the museum to experience a bit of culture, colouring, button-making, LEGO, and more. Entry is always by donation. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Whistler Après: 1968

In February of 1968 entertainment options for locals and visitors were limited.  Alta Lake, as the area was still called, had a very small full-time population and comparatively little infrastructure.  The Village was still serving as a town dump site and development in Creekside had really only just begun.

The development of Creekside and the surrounding areas as of 1970. Whistler Mountain Collection.

The February edition of Garibaldi’s Whistler News included the “Whistler Mountain Weekly Schedule of Entertainment”, a listing of weekly events that were open to the public.  While not a lengthy list (especially when compared to the five pages of listings found under PiqueCal and Nightlife in this publication just last week) every evening provided something different.

The week began on Sunday with a General Information Night where “ski-weekers” were invited to the Cheakamus Inn to view slides of the area and ask any questions they might have about Whistler Mountain.

On Monday a day of skiing could be followed by hot drinks in the Cheakamus Inn lounge and a “Get-Acquainted Party” at the Highland Lodge to meet instructors and others on vacation.

Shown here with his children, Dick Fairhurst was the owner of Cypress Lodge and a ski-doo enthusiast. Fairhurst Collection.

Cypress Lodge (the current site of the Point and Sailing Club) offered Ski-Doo parties every Tuesday, including a ski-doo trip to Cypress Lodge, hot drinks, light refreshments and the option to dance or rent a ski-too to take around Alta Lake.

Wednesdays were Movie Night when a film would be shown in the Day Lodge at the foot of Whistler Mountain.  In 1968 a ticket to the movies was a reasonable $1 for adults and $0.50 for children.

On Thursday the entertainment moved to the Mount Whistler Lodge, a location of fond memories for many Whistler residents and visitors.  Guests were encouraged to come “any time after 9 pm and see the local people in action” with a Jug Band on hand and records for dancing, as well as refreshments and pizza.  According to an advertisement placed by the Mount Whistler Lodge, in which it was described as a “rustic waterfront lodge with rooms and cabins in one of the finest settings in the world,” this was also the place to be every Friday and Saturday for dancing and pizza.

Hillcrest Lodge, originally built and run by the Mansell family, was renamed the Mount Whistler Lodge under new management soon after Whistler Mountain opened.  Mansell Collection.

The February of 1968 offered extra entertainment with two dances scheduled in Whistler Mountain’s main lodge for February 3 and 17, alternating Saturdays with the Mount Whistler Lodge for the month.  Admission to these dances was $1.50 and music was provided by the newly formed Poppy Family.  An added attraction was a “psychedelic lighting show”.

Today there is no shortage of evening entertainment opportunities for visitors to Whistler, including outdoor activities, restaurants, bars and theatres (movie and otherwise), not to mention the events, classes and presentations put on by many local organizations.