Whistler and Vancouver: a tale of two Winter Olympics
Amplifying a recent trend, the 2010 Winter Olympics will be split between two cities – Vancouver and Whistler – almost completely separate from each other. Critics say it undermines the Olympic spirit of unity.
Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia
But chances are she won’t make it, she says. The reason is not any sort of ban or curfew. It is simple geography.
Though these are known as the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, they are actually two different Olympics going on simultaneously – one in Vancouver and one in the mountain village of Whistler. And getting between them is no easy matter.
The three-hour bus ride means Krizova would not return to Whistler, where she is competing and staying, until past midnight – and she has training the next day.
In this way, the Vancouver Games are merely amplifying a trend begun more than a decade ago. As the Winter Olympics outgrow their homespun Nordic roots to include snowboarders riding fakey and VIPs expecting five-star treatment, the Lillehammers and Lake Placids of old simply can’t accommodate what the Games have become.
The result has been a shift to bigger cities, but with few big cities being situated directly at the foot of an Olympic quality mountain range, the Winter Olympics have increasing become schizophrenic. The Turin Olympics were the first to feature more than one athletes’ village – an acknowledgment that the distance between the city and the mountain venues had become too great an inconvenience for athletes.
This year, that split is even more stark. In addition to a separate athletes’ village for Olympians in skiing and sliding events, Whistler also has its own medals plaza, meaning that athletes there may never see Vancouver except during opening and closing ceremonies – and, in Krizova’s case, probably not even then.
The athletes, many of whom have never been to a Games with one Olympic village (Salt Lake was the last one), seem content. The Whistler Olympic Village, they say, is much better furnished than the sparse athletes’ villages in the mountains outside Turin.
But from the perspective of history, something is lost, says David Wallechinsky, author of “The Complete Book of the Olympics.”
Is the era of the village Olympics over?
No longer do the Winter Olympics bring together all the athletes into one village, where downhill skiers can sit down in the cafeteria next to figure skaters and curlers.
Now, “it’s just like being at another stop on the World Cup circuit,” Wallechinsky says. “It’s significant if it becomes standard.”
Whether it becomes standard could essentially be decided next year. Bidding for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games are Munich, Germany; Pyeongchang, South Korea; and Annecy, France. The latter two are villages seeking a return to the ethic of Innsbruck. Munich is Germany’s third-largest city. If Munich wins, it would be a message that the era of the small-town Olympics is over.