Q & A with the CEO and president of Whistler Sport Legacies

The mission of the non-profit, Whistler Sport Legacies, is to encourage the public to explore recreational sport and provide opportunities for professional athletes to excel.

Nonprofit is responsible for operating the Whistler Sliding Centre, Olympic Park and Athletes' Centre

Fans pose in front od the Olympic Rings in Whistler Ski Resort village, in preparation for the Vancouver Winter Olympics on February 11, 2010. (AFP/Getty Images)

It was only six years ago that the eyes of the world were on Whistler and Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Over a half a decade on, non-profit Whistler Sport Legacies aims to honour the spirit of the games and encourage both the public to explore recreational sport, and provide opportunities for professional athletes to excel.

Roger Soane is the president and CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies, which is responsible for the operation of some of the sites built during the games.

Soane joined host Gloria Macarenko during a special live broadcast of B.C. Almanac at the Whistler Brewhouse on March 4 to talk about his memories of the games and what is in store for Whistler's future.

Gloria Macarenko: We all have our own favourite moment or memory of those games. What was yours?

Roger Soane: I think if I look at the legacy, [Gold medal skeleton champion Jon] Montgomery walking through the village with his pitcher of beer personifies Whistler and its party atmosphere and embraces the sport. So I think that's one memory that I can think back on and say, 'That's Whistler.'

Jon Montgomery of Canada celebrates his gold medal in the Men's Skeleton on day 8 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at the Whistler Sliding Centre on February 19, 2010. (Getty Images)

Since 2010, what do you think has been the biggest Olympic legacy here?

I think just the way that we are able to put on world class events and we continue to do that, whether it's weekend warrior sport events or world cup events that we host at the Whistler sliding centre.

There was a lot of infrastructure built for the games. Describe what's left here, and what's benefiting athletes of today and the future?

The Whistler Sport Legacies is responsible for three venues. First, the Whistler Sliding Centre which is host to the three sliding sports — luge, skeleton and bobsleigh. We also run the Ski Callaghan, also known as the Whistler Olympic Park, and that's the nordic centre which is about 20 kms outside town towards Squamish.

A skeleton competitor makes his way down the track during day 2 of the IBSF 2012 Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup on November 24, 2012 at the Whistler Sliding Centre in Whistler. (Getty Images)

Then we also have the legacy of the Whistler Athletes' Centre which is a great asset for Whistler, and people coming to do sports in Whistler. We have a hotel there, which is 80 rooms, and we also have long term accommodation for athletes to stay and train in Whistler.

How often are they used, and by whom?

We operate the Whistler Sliding Centre for six months of the year, October through to the end of March, and we slide there basically eight hours a day. We have athletes training there every day of the week, Monday through Sunday, and they're coming from all over the world but specifically we have local clubs and provincial clubs as well as our national athletes coming to use that facility.

Then, during the tourism season, we open the track up for about an hour a day for tourists to come and try the sliding sports. So six months of full activity, and in the summer we open it up for a wheel bobsleigh. So, as much as we are a winter sport we still have summer activities as well.

With an increasingly unpredictable climate, what future do you think winter sports have in B.C.?

The good thing about sliding is we're refrigerated so we can control our own temperature and climate, but I am concerned when it comes to our nordic facility out of the Callaghan Valley. Even in the last three years we've seen a dramatic change in the snowfall and in the average temperature. We don't have a large mountain and we can't go further up so it is a challenge. We're looking at that and saying, 'What can we do to mitigate it?' and 'Can we find a way to increase our snowmaking ability?'

For us it's more about temperature. We're only 800 feet higher than Whistler so it is going to be a challenge if we continue to see this warming trend.

What is the legacy of the games for B.C. and in fact all of Canada?

I think the legacy is keeping our venues current and keeping them with the ability to host the world at world class events, and also introducing our youth to some niche sports that typically haven't been something that Canadians have participated in. So we are already seeing some youth that were around during the 2010 games starting to now become world class athletes in niche sports that weren't around before the games.

Alexandre Bilodeau of Canada takes 1st place during the Men's Freestyle Skiing Moguls on day 3 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games on February 14, 2010. (Getty Images)

Do you foresee any encouragement in terms of new facilities? What would you like to see?

I think I'd like to see the legacies expand and we're doing that with partnerships with the mountain and looking at different sports that really could benefit from being in Whistler.

We're starting into the game a little bit late and I look at somewhere like Calgary, that hosted the games maybe 30 years ago, and how they've developed their sites into multi-sport venues that now look after many, many sports, and were not only the legacy of their games, but also beyond.

I think it's all about keeping the world active, keeping our kids active, and introducing them to activities that they're going to be doing for the rest of their lives.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled:  Exploring the legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games


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