4,500 troops + 5,000 cops = One Stupid Party
(*banner seen in Victoria during the launch of the Olympic Torch Relay)
Whistler feels more like Kandahar these days than a posh ski resort.
Since the summer, military helicopters of all shades, shapes and sizes have taken over our peaceful skies, and army troops can be seen walking around town. It’s virtually impossible to ignore them.
Visitors and residents can now mingle with the over 1,000 Canadian army troops, who recently erected a camp south of Whistler in the Cal-Cheak area. On the town’s north end, residents of the new Rainbow neighbourhood were recently informed that they would be co-habitating with 1,600 private security personnel for the next three months.
The increased militarization and security that now accompanies international sporting mega-events like the Olympics, makes strange bedfellows with Whistler’s tourism sector.
Recently, a Whistler resident was mountain biking down the Big Timber trail in Creekside next to Whistler Mountain, when she came face-to-face with military troops pointing their automatics rifles at her. A big change from the black bears or foxes that one normally encounters in the backcountry.
Other residents have reported powerful searchlights (like those used by the Nazis) being directed into their windows as they slept at 4 a.m. What a difference hosting the Olympic games can make.
Lakes and trails that were normally accessible to the public have been declared off limit, while venues such as the Whistler athletes’ village, the Whistler Sliding Centre and Whistler Olympic Park are now adorned with yellow gates and security guards.
From November 2-6, the aptly named Exercise Gold, the third and final Olympic security exercise, will be held from Vancouver to Whistler.
The Public Safety press release assures residents that “the events will take place in controlled areas and will pose no risk to the public or the environment.”
We’ll see what this week brings.