Friday, August 12, 2016

Vancouver 2010 Made Whistler a "Better Place"

The Resort Municipality of Whistler is located in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia 125 kilometres (78 miles) from Vancouver, British Columbia.
For the 2010 Winter Games, Whistler hosted Olympic and Paralympic Alpine skiing, Cross-country skiing and Biathlon, as well as Olympic Nordic combined, Ski jumping, Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton.
Whistler Blackcomb, the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, is North America’s premier four season mountain resort, Whistler and Blackcomb are two side-by-side mountains which combined offer over 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers, receives on average over 1,174 centimetres (462 inches) of snow annually, and one of the longest ski seasons in North America.
The Canadian resort used the Winter Games as a catalyst to achieve its long-term development goals in the local community, according to former Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed.
Melamed, who was Mayor of Whistler from 2005 to 2011, played a key role during preparations for the Games and says that the legacies that could be gained from the event were always at the forefront of organisers’ minds.
"We started with a clear sense of what the community wanted and we used the Games as a catalyst to take us there", he explains. "It’s about doing your homework before the Games and having a long-term view. What is your vision and what is it you want to get out of the Games, beyond just hosting the events?".
Those community goals included creating a new social space in the centre of the village as a legacy of the Live Site that was built to host concerts and medal ceremonies during the Games.
"The celebration site that was built in Whistler was always intended to become a special place in the village, which in the past had been an unused site", explains Melamed. "That’s now been converted into the Olympic Plaza, and it’s become a fantastic place, not just to celebrate 2010, but also to bring Whistler into the present with a new cultural hub that provides a family and play area".
According to Melamed, the plaza has also provided economic benefits by hosting concerts during the summer and helping to attract other major events to the area, such as Ironman Triathlon Series.
Whistler also used the Games to provide low-cost housing to local residents by converting the Athletes Village, which housed approximately 2,400 athletes and officials during Vancouver 2010, into a new neighbourhood, called Cheakamus Crossing.
"It was intentionally designed so that it would provide about 85% local resident housing at below market prices", explains Melamed. "It’s become a fantastic new neighbourhood for Whistler and a place where local residents can buy a property and actually call Whistler ‘home’".
Melamed also praises the transport legacies of the Games, which include increased use of public transit systems and the new Sea-to-Sky highway, linking Whistler to Vancouver. The $600 million investment to improve the safety, reliability and capacity of the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler will be publicised for providing visitors with a faster, easier and more enjoyable journey to and from the resort than previously.
"Some people would say that has been the most important legacy and there’s no question it has made the trip easier and even more breath-taking – it’s a beautiful drive", says Melamed. "The safety of the highway has also vastly improved, which has been a big plus, and it’s made the drive shorter".
Four years on from hosting the Games, Melamed says that Whistler’s tourism is also now witnessing a post-Olympic boost.
"We’re now experiencing the lift from the global recognition that the Games brought Whistler", he explains. "We anticipated that there might be a little bit of a delay, but visitor numbers are now up. People got to see Whistler – and the beautiful scenery and visuals that were beamed around the world – and it may have taken them a couple of years to put it on their travel plan, but now they’re starting to come in increased numbers".
A study made after the celebration of the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler show that the resort's role as Host Mountain Resort has led to significant gains in international awareness according to the Canadian resort, "...a critical element in growing visitation over the coming years".
Whistler calculates that approximately 3.5 billion people around the world watching the Games on their televisions and online.
Based on a study conducted by Tourism Whistler in partnership with Tourism British Columbia, awareness of Whistler increased significantly in the key overseas markets of United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. The study measured awareness of Whistler before and after the 2010 Winter Games (November 2009, January 2010 and March 2010).
Increases by market: United Kingdom awareness of Whistler increased from 32 per cent to 45 percent, in Germany awareness increased from 19 per cent to 42 per cent and in Australia, already the most aware with 48 per cent of Australians knowing about Whistler before the Games, 62 per cent were aware afterwards.

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)’s media and public relations activities around the Games also generated about CAD 1 billion in ‘Advertising Value Equivalency’ in 2010, while global audiences were reached 12 billion times in 2010 by Olympic coverage with Canadian tourism messages.
Indeed, FutureBrand ranked Canada as the number one country brand in 2010, crediting the positive effects of hosting the Games, and noting CTC’s Olympic Games tourism strategy and its strong tourism brand as a key influence.

Despite the many visible benefits that Vancouver 2010 has brought to Whistler, Melamed believes that the most significant legacy is an intangible one.
"Before the Games, I didn’t really understand what the Games could bring or what they could mean to a town such as Whistler or even a country like Canada", he says. "But the magic we felt in Whistler, and the national pride and the sense of achievement we drew from everything was one of the most important things to come out of the Games (...) You can talk about the bricks and mortar legacies, or the economic benefits, but for me this national pride that erupted as a result of the Games is something that you can’t really put a price on".

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