The 2010 Winter Olympics are less than a year away, yet one event at Mount Washington Alpine Resort last winter made it seem like the Olympic Games were already here.
The Resort hosted its second International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup in three years from March 11-14.
“It was inspirational,” said Don Sharpe, Resort Director of Business Operations. “It was absolutely wonderful,”said Susan Kelsey, who heads up the Comox Valley Spirit of B.C. Community Committee. Kelsey is also a former Olympic athlete, having won a bronze medal for swimming in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Que. “We hosted (the World Cup) in 2007 and it was a big success; we just built on that,” she said.
There were 270 volunteers working the event, and Comox Valley schools “adopted” the 20 participating nations, cheering them on during the week of events. Students also took part in the medal ceremonies, holding the trays of medals so dignitaries could present them to the winning athletes.
Two IPC technical directors from Switzerland visited the site, including one man who had also attended the 2007 event. He said, “You guys are in line for a world championship now.”
The Resort has applied for an able-bodied World Cup event in 2012. Sharpe said it’s a long shot, but once a resort makes an application “it puts you on the radar; people know that you’re serious.” The Resort is expecting upwards of 250 athletes and support crew to train at Mount Washington prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics. They already have six snowboard teams, five biathlon teams and three cross-country teams that have committed, Sharpe said.
Countries that will be represented include Canada, the United States, Sweden, Germany, France and Switzerland. Paralympic teams that will practice at Mount Washington prior to their Winter Games include Norway, Denmark, Finland, Ukraine and Austria.
The Spirit of B.C. Community Committee is concentrating on the Olympic torch run, which will stop in the Comox Valley on Nov. 2. Courtenay has been designated a celebration city, and is planning a big event at Lewis Park to herald the torch, Kelsey said.
The torch will pass through Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland on its way down Vancouver Island. “We’re gearing up for 2010,” she said. More events are planned leading up to the Games, including the Canada Day parade in Courtenay, the theme for which will be “2010 Olympics,” she said.
“We’re going to have a float in the parade and have a real presence on that day. “More than anything, we want people to be aware of the Olympics and raise the spirit in the Valley – get people excited about the Olympics,” she said.