There really is a feeling of emptiness around Whistler as I write this.
We've been left with a huge void to fill since the world left us just over a week ago. Passing through the village the very next morning after the infamous hockey gold medal game, it was almost as if the 2010 Winter Olympics had never happened! Stands and specially erected platforms for the media presenters, etc had already been dismantled and the visiting thousands were on their way out of town. Eerie actually!
Now, this said, I think I can safely say that many living in and around Whistler will feel the effects for a while to come. It was all too obvious the next couple of days that many were all partied out. Hung-over is probably a quite accurate word, but in truth I think the effects of just trying to keep going and soak up all this 'once in a lifetime' experience, had finally taken its toll. Now finally able to relax a little, many an internal combustion unit seemed to have imploded; immune systems pushed to their limits had finally taken too much stress and given up.
With little time to regroup and reflect, the organising committees will see that the Paralympics hits town on March 12th. In fact, the Paralympics torch has already begun its travels on its way to Whistler yesterday (8th), ascending the mountain and crossing the huge structural feat that is the 'Peak to Peak' gondola, before descending once again. This will be a much more subdued spectacle than its older, bigger brother of the Olympics, but will provide the town with a way of filling its void.
Perhaps it's a little unfair to suggest that there's nothing much going on here in this destination resort town right now. After all, there's still the huge mountain ranges to be conquered. There's still the much vaulted and printed media about the resort's infamous aprs and party scene. There's also the annual festival in town, 'Winter pride', which celebrates gay and lesbian diversity and inclusiveness. 'Pride House' has been 'stationed' in Whistler from the very outset of the 2010 Olympics and is the only national or other 'House' (think Swiss, Austrian, Canadian, Norwegian… even Jamaican House in place to celebrate and for media, etc evolved for the Olympics) that still remains and will keep its doors open throughout until the closing of the Paralympics.
The day lots are back open to the public once more, meaning keen enthusiasts from around the Seattle, Vancouver and coastal areas are inclined to take the road trip up here once again…now that they can park. Oh, and what a difference a sunny, 'bluebird' weekend makes. It's been a while since Whistler has seen its parking lots full and line-ups in the village as everyone scrambles to upload via the gondolas onto the hills. The town's businesses were afraid that there would be such an aversion to travelling up here before and after the Olympics, that a few shut down operations or leased themselves out where they could until some 'normality' returned. It would now seem that given the right conditions (tons of beautiful snow, clear blue skies and somewhere they can actually park having made the pilgrimage), that people will still come. Some curious to see any legacies that the Olympics gave us, some just eager to ski here once again, some just eager!
Looking to Sochi 2014, many have and will continue to question the ability of Russia to pull the 'games' off. Many will speak of nothing else but that fact that we have another 'Vancouver', with Sochi being a seaside resort town, receiving warmer than average temperatures one might expect to see at a Winter Olympics. It is in fact, the benefactor of a humid subtropical climate, with the reported annual February temperatues of around 6C and is considered amongst many as the summer capital of the country. Thankfully, the alpine activities will be placed some 40+ kilometers from the sea level resort. It is also thought that around 12 billion dollars are being invested in the area and infrastructure to bring it up to the high levels the athletes, media and the world will expect. There are, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, even more rumours abound of where these funds are to come from…
To complicate their planning and organising abilities, Sochi is also to host the World 'Bandy' Championships at the same time. For anyone unfamiliar with this term, as I was: Bandy is a sport akin to football (or soccer for anyone outside of Europe reading this), played out on a huge ice pitch with eleven team members on skates with hockey sticks and a ball. They have very similar rules and objectives to football and it is a huge sport typically dominated by the likes of Russia, Sweden, Norway and the Ukraine. There are a girth of countries though who actively particpate ranging from the afore mentioned to the perhaps unthought of Mongolia, Netherlands, Ireland and even India. Characteristally, England played a big part in forming today's modern version of the game, modelling much of it's format and rules around our association football, now only to have little or no part in any games or championships.
The representatives and scouts of Sochi 2014 have been in town since before the commencement of the games here in February, hoping to learn good, bad or indifferently from us what should, or should not, be taken and built into their 'game plan'. They will also be in London for the summer games to learn, but I have been promised by a number of their representatives whom I have spoken to, that they 'hope' their games will be as good as ours! Confidence inspiring, eh?!
So, there's a few more days to kill before it all begins once again. I have every intention of attending one or a few events where possible. Having marvelled at a few of the aplinists last year in some 'world cup' events, I can confirm that many of these Paralympic athletes are nothing short of awe inspiring. Imagine tearing down the slopes on just one leg. Consider ripping down that same hill whilst being parttially or even totally blind, solely reliant on the guy skiing just a few yards ahead of you yelling directions – 'Left, right, hard left, etc'. That's nothing to say of the 'sit' skiers and the many nordic athletes in their biathlons and cross country events. These are guys who 'suffer' from various differing afflictions, but simply refused to let their 'difficulties' get the better of them and now dedicate their time and efforts to 'living their dreams'and making the most of what they have.
Perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from these dedicated guys?! Life is too short to let is simply pass us by and why can't we create our own destiny's?
So give us a few more days rest and we'll all be ready to go once more. The townsolfk levels of energy and enthusiasm have perhaps understandably waned a little in the last week, but we're a resiliant bunch and will have our 'game faces' back on when needed.
Keep them peeled guys!
• Who is Ashley McMillan, click HERE for a short biography.
• Click HERE to visit Whistler's local newspaper website