Whistler trying to find its legacy

Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:15 PM ET

WHISTLER, B.C. – The 2010 Winter Olympics ended nine months ago and the only sports to return are gone.

Organizers of the bobsled and skeleton world cup at the $117 million, taxpayer-funded Whistler Sliding Centre claimed they drew 5,000 spectators over the three-day meet that ended Saturday. The venue’s capacity is 12,000.

The $7 hot dogs were just $3 less than the $10 admission tickets, but there was nowhere for the public to keep warm under the snow that wouldn’t subside on Thursday and Friday.

Only 12 four-man bobsleds from seven countries -- including three each from Canada and Germany -- were entered Saturday. Canada’s head coach Tom De La Hunty said the first meet of the four-year road to the next Olympics in Sochi, Russia was impacted by Europe’s continuing economic troubles. He said the British team had its budget cut and was among the teams that decided to stay closer to home and compete in a European Cup event at Cesana, Italy instead.

The Whistler Sliding Centre is waiting for confirmation of dates for a luge world cup next year and luge world championships the year after. It is also awaiting government approval for the proposed January launch of public skeleton and bobsledding courses. A two-and-a-half-hour sliding experience would include two skeleton runs for $130 or one bobsled run for $140. Luge will not be offered at the track where Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a training crash on Feb. 12, opening day of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The luger’s tragedy was declared accidental by the British Columbia Coroners Service and an independent safety audit of the track was ordered. The section where Kumaritashvili flew off the track and struck an unpadded steel pole has padded poles and a wooden wall. A makeshift memorial remains in Whistler Village near where medals were awarded nightly during the Games. Crews continue work to convert the former medals plaza to parkland.

Whistler’s sledding sports track is one of three Olympic venues kept open with a subsidy from a $100 million taxpayer-funded legacy trust.

The Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley and Richmond Olympic Oval also share the funds, but the Oval’s speedskating track was removed last spring and it is now a multisport recreation centre. Whistler Olympic Park reopened for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in mid-November but has no elite cross-country, biathlon or ski jumping events scheduled.

Elsewhere in Whistler, the alpine skiing course at Whistler Creekside won’t host another race. It was decommissioned after the Paralympics in March.

Only one of the 20 market-priced houses at the former Whistler Olympic Village at Cheakamus Crossing has sold. The site is adjacent to a controversial asphalt plant and more than eight kilometres from Whistler Village proper.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca


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