The Winter Olympics always used to
be the poor cousin to the much higher profile Summer Games. Not anymore.
The Games that finished in
Vancouver last weekend showed that when a major city totally embraces a
tournament of this magnitude, it reaps the rewards at so many levels.
Vancouver and the ski resort of
Whistler, 80 miles north, had never seen such an influx. After initial logistics
problems with transport and organisation, both venues coped admirably.
Their tourist boards must be
rubbing their hands with glee at the anticipated revenues the global publicity
will attract long-term.
Vancouver and Whistler are
wonderful places that attract outdoor-pursuits lovers en masse. Travelling
there is accessible and affordable. It is a magnet now.
The Cayman Islands will gain from a
ripple effect too. Dow Travers was Cayman’s first and only Winter Olympian.
Feted by the likes of Sports Illustrated, Time magazine, the BBC and a clutch
of international media houses, the publicity he attracted is immeasurable.
Even I got hailed everywhere I went
in my Cayman Islands Olympics coat. Total strangers talked fondly of their
trips to Rum Point, Seven Mile Beach and the Turtle Farm. Many had been scuba
diving. One woman reminisced that she had dived in Brac.
The fact that the Winter Games were
held in its biggest city yet and there were two villages for the first time,
set a precedence which will be hard to match in Sochi, Russia in four years’
Cayman is a long way off winning a
medal but Donald McLean, President of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, supports
the Islands having athletes in the Winter Games.
He has been to many Summer Games
and even competed in 1996 Atlanta Games as a yachtsman. Vancouver was his first
“I was blown away by it all and
very impressed,” he said. “It was wonderful how everyone came out to celebrate
on the streets.
“I would like Dow to continue and
go to another Olympics. Without sounding selfish, I think Cayman can have more
Winter Olympians because there are lots of students in Canada and the US with a
Cayman connection who could qualify in a winter sport, be it skiing or snowboarding.
“I spoke to Austin Sealy, the Barbadian
who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, and he doesn’t support
Caribbean countries going to the Winter Olympics. He feels the money could be
better spent on supporting athletes to get to the Summer Games. People in
Cayman say that too.
“But I feel the answer is two-fold.
The amount of exposure we got was enormous. Our tourist board is trying to put
a value to it.
“Also, it’s not as if we imported
Dow and just gave him status. Dow is totally legitimate to represent Cayman. He
was born here, schooled here and has a home here. Given the opportunity, he
should do it again.”
Gina Matthews is manager of Public
Relations at the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. She said: “Undoubtedly,
Dow Travers has helped to raise the profile of the Cayman Islands
“Dow’s story of a young man from a
small Caribbean island on the ‘hunt for snow’ captivated the world’s media and
garnered coverage with the likes of USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Vanity
Fair among many other media in the US, Canada and as far afield as Europe.”