Posted by: PPHR | March 22, 2010

HRH Prince Edward in Town…What, no Lizzie?

23 March 2010 By Ashley McMillan

Whilst not as tumultuous as the previous Olympic experience, this week has certainly seen its share of excitement.

Medals galore for the Russian team who continually made up for the Olympic team’s shortcomings. Shocks all round as the Canadian sled-hockey team fail to beat Japan in their semi-final game (well, shocks to the Canadians anyhow) and news that the Earl of Wessex (Charlie’s younger brother, Prince Edward to the rest of us) has been in attendance at many of the events and has also appeared at the closing ceremony, together with the Canadian Premier Stephen Harper. They both chatted to some of the hundreds of volunteer workers who kept this stage and town flowing throughout and the Prince asked some if they would be volunteering for the London 2012 games. Attending the events was perhaps a ‘given’ when you consider that his Royal Highness is the patron of the British Paralympics Association, but nonetheless, it was good to see his commitment to highlighting their cause, supporting from the front and going some small way to justifying the taxpayers millions that line his royal pockets.

The lowering of the flag and dowsing of the enduring torch late on Sunday formally ended 10 celebrated days of competition with more than 500 athletes from 44 countries in alpine skiing, biathlon and cross-country skiing, held in Whistler, and wheel-chair curling and ice sledge hockey in Vancouver. The flag was then formally presented to Russian officials, setting the wheels in motion for the next winter games in Sochi in four years.

This has proved to be the most successful Paralympics to-date and reached its biggest television audience in history. I guess it’s a sign of the times then that globally it was viewed by record levels also via the internet as well. To harness these new levels of awareness and interest, it is widely speculated that the organizing committees will actively measure for appetite of other sporting events, such as board and ski cross, speed skating, etc to add to future Paralympics, attracting a bigger audience, impact and hopefully receiving more sponsorship partners.

To be expected, there has been much talk about what went on before us all here and everyone has been happy to express their ‘expert’ opinion, commentary and suggestions – So, to leave you with one piece of post events gondola gossip from the Olympics, for anyone who’s interested in the world of Alpine skiing, was something I picked up from one of the alpine events commentators, eager to put in a few turns of his own for a change and share some thoughts with me in a ride up the hill.

– Apparently there are those who have perhaps questioned the outstanding and picture perfect Lindsey Vonn’s sportsmanship in the aftermath of her recent Olympic slalom crash. She has a fierce rivalry with her compatriot Julia Mancuso (amongst others of course…), who was set to follow her out of the gates in an event for which she was the defending Olympic champion. Lindsey was out of the gates first and crashed way down the course. Now, instead of moving out of the way, she ‘made the most’, some would say, of her crash and ensured that because her body was in the way on the course, that the following athlete’s run would have to be stopped. This just happened to be Ms Mancuso and forced her to have to ride back up to the starting gate on the back of a snowmobile. In the interim, several other athletes took their turn on the course, creating bigger and deeper ruts which would further affect any following skier’s runs. When Ms Mancuso was finally allowed to step up and take her run (officials had given her a hard time about not skiing all the way down and taking the official gondola back up, to which she protested in view of the race ski’s she was on, prepped specifically for this run with appropriate wax, etc and then wouldn’t let her enter the starting area initially without further protestation and gestures on her part), she was already in tears, apparently over the stress she’d been made to endure. Consequently, one of the hot medal favourites finished outside the top ten. Now, believe what you will of course…gamesmanship? Who knows?

Thoughts are already turning to life in ‘post-Olympics’. Business’ are already counting the costs and some, now that the ‘glow’ has died down, are making noises about suing or trying to recover lost income from the organising committee VANOC. Naturally, townsfolk are digesting and dissecting the good, the bad and the ugly from the last two months and looking to what lessons can be learned or taken from all this. Life has undoubtedly been different around here and the investment input from VANOC into the municipality has had much to do with that, but what will we be left with? Much of the investment was supposed to leave us with many positive legacies. Let’s see what these will eventually amount to…

One thing that will change is the job description of some of the local police guys & gals. Some of these officers, specifically those brought in from around the country to boost numbers and visual control, landed a real ‘plum’ job when a number of them received their orders for the events. They were required to ski Whistler and Blackcomb mountains from 7.30am through till 5pm every day for 30 days. When I questioned one of these fine young gentlemen on the sacrifice they were having to endure, the reply I got was one with rather a wry smile, ‘we’re policing the resort’s boundaries to keep everyone safe and let me tell you…it’s tough skiing this much’. He then jumped on a ski lift with his buddies and continued to police our boundaries whilst ripping up the mountain, turn after turn. Thank god for the police and VANOC’s budget, eh?!

Although there is still a solid 3 meters base of snow across the mountain peaks, thoughts for some have already turned to spring. Not least because down in the valley at village level, the snow has all but disappeared allowing many individuals to dust off their bikes and engage in this healthier form of transport. There are already planned mountain biking events for the coming month or so, meaning the rest of us will have to drag out our trustee steeds and get them serviced no doubt. The unusually warmer than usual weather front we’ve experienced for the last month or so has indeed altered some of the typical timetable of events down in the valley. For example, a good number of the cross country skiing trails closed a couple of weeks early, mountain bike trail clearing has commenced early, movement around the town and valley trails and roads has undoubtedly been easier this year (outside of the Olympic / Paralympics road restrictions of course!). For myself and other avid runners, those dedicated (or stupid enough..) have been able to train outside at will, rather than picking their footing carefully through the snow and ice packed paths, merely trying to remain upright.

It has been a different season for us all for many reasons and one which none of us will forget in a hurry. Life will go on and hopefully lessons have been learned and as the town gradually returns to some ‘normality’, business as usual will re-enter the fray and the hopes are that tourism will grow from all of the recent self indulgent hype.

Hopefully HRH Prince Edward will take back some kind words to his family and British media and push for further support toward his good causes and hopefully British medals at the 2012 games. Maybe we will or maybe we won’t see Lizzie and the rest of the Windsors at the closing ceremony, but the one certainty is that the world’s glare will certainly be on y’all. Enjoy it all while you can. Believe me, the special times really don’t last long enough, but the memories will live on!


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