Monday, November 30, 2009

Olympic sports that are forgotten in time

(Information taken from

Ever been curious about the origins of your hometown, or the town you currently live in? How about the city in which you will see the Olympics? As someone who knows less about the city he lives in, I think it’s fascinating to look into a town or city’s history, just to get a better perspective on it in general.

The following is a brief history of Whistler, and its rise to Olympic fame:

Whistler's history began in the early 1900s, when the only residents in the valley were a few trappers who had settled into the area via the Pemberton trail (compare that to Whistler’s current population of 10,000; 40,000 during peak months). This trail was completed in 1877 and was intended to be used for cattle-driving, however the terrain was inhospitable and most cattle were lost.

Alta Lake is the original name of Whistler. The name "Whistler" was used by settlers, because of the shrill whistle sound made by the western hoary marmots who lived among the rocks.

Word got around about the beauty of Whistler, and Alex and Myrtle Phillip were the first couple to purchase land in the glorious valley.

It was not until 50 years later that this resort was discovered as a skiing destination. Four Vancouver businessmen began the development of Whistler Mountain and it officially opened for skiers in 1966. A town site was developed in 1975 and construction began 3 years later on what was previously the area's garbage dump. Shortly after, Blackcomb Mountain opened and expanded Whistler's horizons being recognized as the top ski resort in North America. Whistler has continued to blossom since then, and has won many similar honors and awards and is still one of the world's best four-season holiday destinations.

After the two unsuccessful bids for the Winter Olympics, Whistler teamed up with Vancouver and bid again in 1998. With much success, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2010 Winter Olympic Games to the cities of Vancouver and Whistler. The lifelong dream for the community has finally been reached.

Consistently ranked the number one mountain resort in North America, Whistler features two majestic mountains, epic skiing and snowboarding conditions, four championship golf courses, more than 200 shops, 90 restaurants and bars, accommodations galore, hiking trails, spas and arguably the best mountain bike park in the world.

Chronological Order of Whistler’s History

1877 - The Pemberton Trail is completed linking the Pemberton valley to the Pacific coast, north of Vancouver.
1900 - Trappers and prospectors settle in the area. Alta Lake is the original name of Whistler.
1910 - Myrtle and Alex Philip arrive in Vancouver from Maine . They hear about Whistler's spectacular beauty.
1911 - Myrtle and Alex take the three day journey to Whistler: a steamer ship from Vancouver to Squamish, overnight in Brackendale, and a two-day horse trek to Whistler.
1914 - Myrtle and Alex buy ten acres of land and build the Rainbow Lodge on the shores of Alta Lake .
1914 - The Great Pacific Eastern Railway (now BC Rail) is built to Alta Lake and links the valley to the outside world. Whistler becomes a base for logging and mining. Myrtle and Alex's Rainbow Lodge is the most popular resort destination west of Banff and Jasper. Way to go, Myrtle!
1950's - Other lodges open throughout the valley. The abundant fish stocks make Whistler a summer resort destination long before it is considered a winter one.
1962 -Four Vancouver businessmen envision Whistler as the site to host a future Winter Olympic Games. The bid is unsuccessful; however, the Garibaldi Lift Company is formed with Franz Wilhelmsen as president. The goal is to create a ski hill.
1964 -Whistler still has no road, electricity, or sewer systems.
1965 - Whistler Mountain finally gets the name "Garibaldi Whistler Mountain". A four person gondola, a double chairlift, two T-bars, and a day lodge are constructed.
1966 - Whistler officially opens for skiing.
1975 -Whistler becomes the first "Resort Municipality" in Canada .
1977 -The new municipality is given 53 acres of Crown land to develop a town centre.
1978 -Construction begins on the new town centre that will eventually become Whistler Village.
1980 -Blackcomb Mountain opens creating one of the largest ski complexes in North America.
1985 -Blackcomb Mountain expands its terrain and becomes North America's only "Mile High Mountain".
1992 -Snow Country Magazine votes Whistler the "Number One Ski Resort in North America" and the trend continues for almost a decade.
1998 -Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains merge under Intrawest Corporation.
2003 - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announces Vancouver/Whistler as the Host City for the 2010 Olympic Winter and Paralympic Winter Games.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Colbert to sponsor US Speedskating Team

2nd Blog post: Colbert Speedskating

On Monday, November 2nd on Stephen Colbert announced on his show, The Colbert Report, that he will officially be sponsoring the 2009 US Speedskating team. This bold move was a financial lifeline for the speedskating team, because their largest commercial sponsor, the Dutch Bank DSB, went bankrupt and left a $300,000 hole in the team’s budget. FYI- speedskating is very popular in the Netherlands.

One might ask why other sponsors didn’t line up to support this highly medal-bearing sport for the US. One reason is that speedskating isn’t exactly an American past time, and so doesn’t attract as much supporters. And of course the slump in the economy doesn’t help this unpopular winter sport’s chances as well.

But fans of the sport shouldn’t jump for joy just yet, as Colbert won’t be handing the team a check for any set amount. Over the next few weeks, the Comedy Central show will ask viewers to donate money to the patriotic cause- something the show has pulled off successfully in the past with the Yellow Ribbon Fund. Colbert viewers raised $240,000 for the cause, which assists injured service members and their families. With the Olympics less than 100 days away and a down economy, it will definitely be interesting to see how much the Colbert Nation can help raise.

One philosophical or ethical question that some have pondered is the involvement of a comedy show with a serious, athletic event. US Speedskating executive director Bob Crowley stressed to the Colbert staff that they have “exquisite athletes who have trained their entire lives for that Olympic platform…They can’t minimize that. They get it, and they recognize that.” Short track skater Katherine Reutter reminds skeptics, “We’re Olympic athletes, and that in itself deserves respect. But we race around in little circles in full-body spandex. There’s plenty of stuff to make fun of.”

Right now the long-track team is preparing for a competition in Berlin, while the short-trackers are in Montral for a meet.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vancouver preparations for 2010 Winter Olympics

Vancouver’s preparations for 2010 Olympics

As Vancouver, its citizens and world the gear up for the 2010 Olympics, many factors and preparations need to be accounted for before the festivities actually begin. Although one could make an extensive list of preparations, this blog will focus on four: hotels, transportation, homelessness and protests.

A number of new hotels are joining Vancouver’s skyline in preparation for the 2010 Winter Games. These include the Loden Vancouver (2008), the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver (2009) and the Fairmont Pacific Rim (2009). Vancouver’s famed Hotel Georgia, a 1928 landmark, is undergoing a complete renovation and is set to reopen soon as well.

Two major additions to Vancouver’s transportation system are sure to have lasting positive impacts. The Sea to Sky Highway, the section of Highway 99 connecting West Vancouver and Whistler, is being upgraded in a massive project. The new highway, one of the most scenic in Canada, will reduce driving time between the two communities. The Canada Line is the newest extension to Vancouver’s SkyTrain rapid transit system and is set to be complete and operational by November 2009. The train will take visitors from Vancouver International Airport to downtown Vancouver’s Waterfront Station in about 25 minutes. 

If you want to get a feel for how important the issue of homelessness is to the city of Vancouver, just take a look at Mayor Gregor Robertson’s twitter posts. Every fourth post is an update on what he has done to look into and solve this public irritation. Panhandlers have long been a less than reputable aspect of the northwest city.

When an economical force such as the Olympics come to town, some groups of people will always exist who disapprove of the mega event. One such group,, does not simply disapprove the presence of the Olympics, but asks for accountability. On the site, they clarify exactly who they are and what they demand: “Who are we ? We are the same people who opposed the games in the first place. We are also the people who wanted the games but are now shocked at the lack of public accountability for the games. We are the people who believe such large amounts tax dollars should be spent in consultation with the tax paying public. We are people from all over the political spectrum, ethnic backgrounds, income levels and education.”