Something happened to Whistler last weekend. Beneath the grueling paces of athletes, … and beyond the lofty figure of $15 million in revenues organizers used to sell the idea to us, something changed. If only for a weekend, the best word for it is a “vibe.” It’s what hoteliers, restaurateurs, spectators and athletes used in just about every interview we conducted this week in relation to Whistler’s first of five Ironman competitions.
Restaurant servers were slammed, working double shifts in some cases, but not minding the grind because the crowd treated and tipped them well. “They were friendly and chatty … like friends and family, here just having a nice day,” said server Zoe Bridger at Los Sombreros.
In the run up to the Ironman, the Olympics were often dropped into the same sentence, in the spirit of good sportsmanship and in the size of the event — one of the largest in Whistler since 2010. You can add “vibe” to that comparison now too. Wendy Kendall, owner of Blenz Coffee had a punishing weekend of near-record profits, but wanted to talk with our reporter more about the goose bumps rising at the thought of watching friends cross the finish line, across the plaza from her shop. “Just walking around town, you knew something was happening. Here, our customers were so positive. Such good energy. Event when they were standing in long lines.”
The RCMP reported no incidents of note; Ironman race director, Keats McGonigal, called us “off-the-chart-awesome spectators”; and local triathlete Marla Zucht called Whistler’s Ironman the “best way you would want a race to be.
“I couldn’t believe how many people were on the side of the highway between Blueberry and the Alpine Cafe. It was electrifying.”
We should remember the mood from last weekend and carry it forward for 2014. Between then and now, let’s not lose touch with that feeling because there will be some negative aspects of the Ironman that come into focus. There always are.
Highway closures essentially turned Pemberton into a ghost town (notwithstanding the army of cheering volunteers). How do we ensure the village gets a fare shake at the economic benefits for next year?
Who was impacted by the highway closures and at what cost?
We know some businesses benefited from the Ironman, but who was negatively impacted because of it?
There were 2,600 athletes, an equal number of volunteers and untold thousands of spectators piled into Whistler last weekend, and it will repeat itself next year. An event of this size does not come without a downside. But the upside, as far as we can tell, is something we welcome back for 2014.