Whistler has long dreamed of the Games

Tue Feb 2, 2010 9:21pm EST
 
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By Allan Dowd

WHISTLER (Reuters) - When the first Alpine skier leaves the downhill starting hut at the 2010 Olympics it will mark the fruition of a four-decade-old dream at the heart of the founding of this western Canadian resort town.

In 1960 a group of Vancouver businessmen traveled to Squaw Valley, California, which was hosting that year's Winter Olympics, and returned with the idea of building their own resort to host the Games in the future.

"They said: 'Hey, if they can do it we know this mountain up the highway from Vancouver'," said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed. "In those days to host a Winter Olympics all you really needed was a ski hill."

The group faced a daunting task. There was no highway to the area, then known as Alta Lake and London Mountain, which was home to little more than summer fishing lodges and logging camps.

The name Whistler is one locals gave the area from the sound made by a local marmot.

"I climbed the mountain, saw the valley, and I was just awe-struck by what was here; the obvious potential. The scale of it was just enormous," said Gary Watson, one of the founding group, of his first visit in 1961, a time he jokingly calls "BR" -- Before Road.

Located some 125 km north of Vancouver, Whistler today has 9,300 permanent residents. With resort visitors and seasonal workers it boasts an average daily population of some 26,000 people, according to town officials.

Whistler tried unsuccessfully for the Games three times before joining forces with Vancouver in the late 1990s to win these Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) allows only one community to have its name in the title of the event, and so these will be the Vancouver Games.   Continued...

 
<p>An Inuit stone landmark called an inukshuk stands at the entrance to the Olympic ski jumping venue in Whistler, British Columbia January 20, 2010. The inukshuk is a symbol of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games which begin February 12. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>