Tag Archives: 1972 Olympic bid

The Village that Could Have Been

Over the past few weeks, as we’ve been working on our temporary exhibit Construction of Whistler Village: 1978 – 1984, we’ve also been thinking about Whistler Village could have looked like if earlier proposals had gone forward.  Before development of the village we know today began in earnest in 1978, town centres for the Whistler area were proposed in various different styles and locations.  Three of the earliest of these plans predated the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), and were proposed by the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA), purpose designed to host the Olympic Winter Games.

GODA first put forth an Olympic bid in 1963, with hopes of hosting the 1968 Olympic Winter Games.  At the time, they proposed to build a town centre at the base of the lifts planned for Whistler Mountain, today’s Creekside.  This idea of a planned town centre continued to be developed by further bids.

In 1968, GODA submitted a bid to host the 1972 Olympic Winter Games.  The plans from this bid placed the town centre at the same location as today’s Whistler Village.  According to a painting currently on display at the Whistler Museum, this town centre would have included a large plaza area with a view of the proposed ski jumps on Whistler Mountain, an airport, and a landing area for helicopters, as well as lodgings and retail spaces.

The proposed town centre for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, as they imagined it would have bee seen by skiers. GODA

Neither bid was successful, in part because Whistler Mountain had not yet become firmly established as a ski resort.  By 1970, however, when GODA was putting forth a bid for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, Whistler Mountain had become better known and the available amenities had increased significantly since 1963.  Garibaldi/Vancouver was selected by the Canadian Olympic Committee as Canada’s official national bid for 1976 and a full IOC bid was developed.  This has left behind lots of official material that gives insight into the Canadian Olympic organizers and their vision of the Whistler areas as an Olympic venue, including architectural drawings for a proposed town centre in the official 1976 Vancouver/Garibaldi bid book.

Some of the elements envisioned in the architectural drawings done for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games. GODA

According to the bid book, a prominent selling point for this proposal was the idea of a single-host area, with all events held within four kilometres of the town centre at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

The town centre envisioned in the bid book is not too different from the 1972 bid.  Ski Jump Plaza provided views of the ski jumps on Whistler Mountain and was accessible through a pedestrian concourse.  The concourse was to be lined on either side by tall, angular buildings and lifts beginning at the concourse would carry skiers and spectators up the hill.  Close by would be an ice rink, biathlon course and other Olympic venues.

The ski jump planned for the base of Whistler Museum. GODA

The proposed town site for the 1976 Games was very different from the village that was designed just eight years later, but certain elements, such as a focus on pedestrians and lift access to Whistler Mountain are defining features of the village we know today.

We’ll be learning more about how Whistler Village came to be this Thursday (October 24) during the first of a three-part storytelling event on Whistler’s history.  You can find more information about the Legends of Whistler event here.

Ghosts of Olympic Bids Past.

1 year from today the seaside resort of Sochi Village will be a rocking celebration of winter sport on a scale the world has not seen since, well, n3 years ago, right here. Since we’re feeling the Olympic spirit we feel it’s apt to look back into Whistler’s Olympic past.

The initial bid for the 1968 Olympics that started this whole thing called Whistler is fairly well known, but fewer are aware that a total of 5 unsuccessful bids for the Olympics had already been made before the IOC finally announced on July 2nd 2003 that the joint Vancouver-Whistler 2010 bid had been chosen. All of these prior bids, despite their failure, played an integral role in the continued development of Whistler until it was finally ready to host the 2010 Games.

The 1976 was an especially strong bid, receiving endorsement from the Canadian Olympic Committee as our official national bid. By 1970, when the bid was being put forth, Whistler Mountain had become an established, high profile ski resort, and Vancouver was an increasingly cosmopolitan city with growing international appeal. One of the most important boosters of the West Coast, and Whistler in particular, was none other than then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau–a frequent visitor to Whistler who even took his honeymoon here with Margaret Sinclair in 1971.

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Pierre Trudeau and Franz Wilhelmsen meet to discuss Olympic bids on Whistler Mountain, 1969.

Although the 1976 games ended up in Innsbruck, Austria, the fact that a full IOC bid was made has left behind a lot of official material that gives insight into the Canadian Olympic organizers and their vision of Whistler as a future Olympic venue. The official 1976 Vancouver/Garibaldi bid book, printed in 1970 and on display in the Olympic section of our permanent exhibit is a perfect example of this.

The Bid Book' which has a beautiful cloth-bound hardcover, and is about the size of a vinyl LP cover.

The Bid Book, which has a beautiful cloth-bound hardcover and is about the size of a vinyl LP cover.

The book is a very polished looking production, meant to showcase the bid and everything the Vancouver-Garibaldi region had to offer. A prominent selling point for this bid was the compact, single host area. All of the events would be held in what is today Whistler, they even advertised that all facilities would be within a 2.5 mile radius of where the village is today.

The master plan, 1/2.

The master plan, 1/2.

The master plan, 2/2.

The master plan, 2/2.

Probably the coolest element from the bid book are the architectural drawings, which offers an alternate-universe version of Whistler Village from the one designed by Eldon Beck and constructed nearly a decade later. Notably, although there was still very little there at the time, and there were no plans to develop Blackcomb yet, the village was still located more or less where it is today.

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The architecture is very grand, especially with all the elements considered as a whole. The buildings are angular, almost modular looking (the athlete’s village, not shown here, resembles very closely the Whiskey Jack neighbourhood in Nordic/Highlands).

Overall, this Olympic Village would have had a more purpose-built feel than today’s actual village; you’d never be more than a stone’s throw from the ski-jumping arena, the the ice rink, or the biathlon course. Despite such differences,  you can still see the influential role it played in leading to the Whistler we have today: the village location, elements of architectural design, perhaps more.

Whether you prefer the designs or today’s village,  and whether the reality would have actually matched these preliminary sketches, are matters for debate. Regardless, these drawings offer endless opportunity for pondering what could have been.