WHISTLER (CITYNEWS) – Ten years ago, the world’s spotlight was on this B.C. ski town.
From victory to tragedy, the Winter Games in 2010 did much to shape the Whistler we see today.
British Columbians have always known about Whistler, the great ski town just up the Sea to Sky Highway. But in 2010, the local resort was introduced to the world in a big way. And even though it’s been 10 years, you don’t have to look very far to see the influence of the Winter Olympics.
Whistler is where athletes from around the world, and yes, Canada too, received medals and cheers.
A decade later, the Medals Plaza is now a park and concert space in the heart of Whistler Village. No athletes now, but maybe some future Olympians.
Just a few kilometres away from the plaza sits the Whistler Sliding Centre. It’s one of three 2010 venues now operated by the non-profit Whistler Sport Legacies. These days, the $105 million track still plays host to international events, and it’s also home to Canada’s sliding athletes.
“In the last 10 years we’ve trained another group of Olympians and continue to do very well on the world stage,” explained Roger Soane, Whistler Sport Legacies CEO.
The track also welcomes brave weekend warriors who are looking to get the bobsled experience.
“The sliding centre is always ranked in the top three of things to do in Whistler,” Soane added.
While it draws athletes and thrill seekers, the world’s fastest track will forever be coupled with tragedy. It’s where Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili died after crashing just hours ahead of the Opening Ceremony.
“Just about the worst start you could possibly have,” former Vancouver Organizing Committee CEO and President John Furlong told CityNews Vancouver. “It was heart breaking. It broke my heart. My whole team and I, we were shattered by that day.”
Now, 10 years later, the Georgian flag and a memorial bench sit outside the venue’s entrance to honour the athlete who lost his life.
Meanwhile, about 12 kilometres down the Sea to Sky Highway sits the Athletes Village where 2,400 competitors and officials stayed during the Games back in 2010.
It’s now mostly affordable housing, but nestled in the middle of it all is the Athlete’s Centre, a $32 million facility providing a gym and accommodation for Canada’s top athletes.
“They are the next Olympians that are training with us,” Soane said.
Josh Kober, the head coach of B.C.’s freestyle moguls team, said the centre is an essential part of his athletes’ recovery following gruelling competition.
“May until September we spend a ton of time here,” Kober explained. “It provides us with all of our needs in all aspects of our training. Super productive, and it’s an amazing resource for us.”
About 10 kilometres northwest of the Athletes Centre is the Whistler Olympic Park. Today, it offers Cross Country Skiing and Biathlon at recreational and competitive levels. It’s also home to Ski Jumping Canada, following last year’s closure of the longstanding Calgary ski jumps.
As legacy venues from the Games in Calgary back in 1988 disappear in the face of underfunding, it begs the question -– could the same happen in Whistler?
It’s a “distinct possibility, according to Soane.
“I think any sporting venue takes funds,” he said. “They’re very capital-intensive. As our infrastructure ages, it’s going to need funding to keep it going. And I think that’s when, as Canadians, we have to decide, do we want to be in this sport? And if so, do we want to fund them?”
But for now, the facilities thrive. And although it’s been a decade, the memories of 2010 are still as fresh as the snow that blankets Whistler.