Tag Archives: 2010 Olympics

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.

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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.

Whistler’s Weasel Workers

Behind every major race held on Whistler Mountain is a pack of Weasels.  The volunteer organization began in the 1970s when Bob Parsons and a crew of six prepped the course for the first World Cup Downhill races in Whistler.

The term “weasel” was bestowed upon the crew due to their work on the Weasel, a section of Dave Murray Downhill that was too steep for the older snow cats to make it up.  Instead, race workers would flatten the section by treading up and down the Weasel on foot.  Though the organization was formally registered as the Coast Alpine Event Club in 1984, the name is rarely used.

Weasel Workers working on the downhill course for the Olympics. Photo courtesy of 2010 Olympic Ski Patroller Lance.

In the early years of the Weasel Workers, most of the volunteers were parents of members of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club but as the races they worked on grew so too did membership in the organization.  Since the 1970s, as well as working on World Cups and other races in Whistler, the Weasels have sent volunteers to help build courses for World Cup races in Lake Louise, Alberta, and Beaver Creek, Colorado, World Championships in Europe and the Winter Olympics in Calgary and Salt Lake City.

Weasels on the course with no sign of the sun. Photo courtesy of 2010 Olympic Ski Patroller Lance.

When the Winter Olympics were awarded to Whistler and Vancouver in 2003 the Weasel Workers began recruiting and building their team in preparation of the alpine events to be held on Whistler Mountain.  Working as a Weasel has always required dedication and the willingness to work hard despite the sometimes challenging conditions Whistler winters can create; hosting the Olympics in Whistler was no different, though perhaps on a slightly more tiring scale.  Weasel Workers were routinely called to be ready and up the mountain for 3 am and the long days of shoveling sometimes lasted until 10 pm after which race workers would often walk over to the Weasel House that offered beer, wine and Weasel Wear.  As a 1993 article in the Whistler Answer stated “How do you spot a Weasel Worker?  They’re the ones on race day who look like they could use a good sleep.”

Weasel Workers continue to work on races in Whistler and send volunteers to events around the world.  Most recently a group of Weasels went to Korea in advance of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics next winter.  Three long-serving members of the Weasels joined us this past Wednesday as part of our Speaker Series.

Dennis Waddingham, one of the original Weasel Workers under Bob Parsons, and Owen Carney provided an interesting history of the Weasels (aided as well by Weasels in the audience) and Colin Pitt-Taylor’s photos and stories from their trip to PyeongChang earlier in March provided a preview of some of the venues and events to come in 2018.  Thanks to all three, as well as Pat Taylor for operating the photos and keeping it all moving, and to everyone who joined us for a great evening – we’ll be announcing more details of our next Speaker Series in April soon!

It Started With an Ark

As Whistler enters the (somewhat) slower season of autumn, Arts Whistler is presenting Fall for Arts, a collection of exhibitions, classes, performances and more highlighting the diverse arts and artists this town has to offer.  In this spirit, we offer a brief look back at one of the older (or younger, depending on how you look at it) performing groups in Whistler: the Whistler Children’s Chorus.

The Whistler Children's Chorus performing Hakuna Matata, 1995

The Whistler Children’s Chorus performing Hakuna Matata, 1995.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus.

The Chorus began in 1991 when Molly Boyd, already the director of the Whistler Singers, was asked to put together a group of children to perform with a Vancouver orchestra putting on Noye’s Fludde (an opera based on Noah’s Ark) in Whistler.  Under the direction of Boyd this group would become known as the Whistler Children’s Chorus in 1992, accepting members 6 and up with the mandate to “provide opportunities for all children in our community to sing and enjoy making music”.

The first performances of the newly formed Chorus included carolling through the Village with the Whistler Singers and joining the Singers at the Christmas Eve Carol Service (a Christmas tradition now entering its 34th year).  The community of Whistler and its variety of events (ie. ski races) soon offered the Chorus many opportunities to perform.  The Chorus participated in the community’s Canada Day Parade and Remembrance Day Ceremony and annually held holiday concerts in support of the Whistler Food Bank.

The Whistler Children's Chorus in the Canada Day Parade, 1997

The Whistler Children’s Chorus in the Canada Day Parade, 1997.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus.

Most notably, in 2002 the Chorus was chosen to represent British Columbia in the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill as part of Unisong, a 500-voice choir made up of choirs from across the country.  During this visit to Ottawa the Chorus performed in the National Arts Centre, Christ Church Cathedral and at then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson’s garden party.  This trip also taught the valuable lesson that red shirts, white pants and fire hoses do not mix, as adult chaperones sat up late trying to scrub the pink out of once white materials.

Unisong mass choir performing in the National Arts Centre, July 2001

Unisong mass choir performing in the National Arts Centre, July 2001.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus

During the lead up to the 2010 Olympics the Chorus built on their early experiences at parades and races to become veritable pros at performing “O Canada”, as well as the catchy official song of the Torch Relay (complete with choreography).  Beginning well before the Olympics at “A Celebration of Canada” for the IOC in 2003, the Chorus performed for the Bid Announcement on July 2, 2003, the “100 Day Countdown Celebration” in November, 2009, the arrival of the Olympic Torch in February 2010, with Norman Foote during the Olympics, and at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Paralympic Games.

Whistler, BC, February 5th 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Whistler. The Whistler Children's Choir and the Whistler Singers will sing, "There's a Light/ Cette Flamme," Photo: Ian Robertson / coastphoto.com

Whistler, BC, February 5th 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Whistler. The Whistler Children’s Choir and the Whistler Singers sing, “There’s a Light/ Cette Flamme,” Photo: Ian Robertson / coastphoto.com

Now in its 24th season, the Whistler Children’s Chorus continues to provide opportunities for children to sing and make music.  They can next be seen performing a spooky selection of songs October 30th at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church.  For more information check out their website or find the choir on Facebook.

If you fancy singing yourself, consider joining the Whistler Singers (Wednesdays at Maury Young Arts Centre) or Barbed Choir (Sundays at the Point).  All are welcome.

 

By Allyn Pringle