Why the London Olympics Has Us Waxing Nostalgic

August 7, 2012

Can you believe it has been a little more than two years ago since the world descended on B.C. for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games? Watching the ongoing Summer Games action in London is sure bringing back memories. From the beginning, we were reminded how the international event is a spectacular platform to showcase a nation’s culture, history and pride.

  Signage at Horseshoe Bay Kiosk

For example, at the recent Olympic opening ceremonies, famous film director Danny Boyle recreated a long line-up of significant moments in British history – from the Shakespearean era to the Industrial Revolution and beyond… heck, James Bond à la English heartthrob Daniel Craig even jumped out of a plane with Queen Elizabeth II (well, her stunt double, at least).

But when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010, B.C. took the show to the streets, so to speak.

While the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project was underway, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was also working with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations to develop the Sea to Sky Cultural Journey . The idea to create an attraction that encompassed the cultural, natural and geographic parts of the area emerged from discussions with various First Nations groups during the highway improvement project.

Highway 99 travellers between Vancouver and Whistler can now learn about the history and culture of the local First Nations people through seven interpretive kiosks located along the corridor. Installed in time for the influx of international Olympic visitors, the kiosks are designed to resemble the traditional Coast Salish cedar hat and feature 84 thematic panels teaching local culture, legend, geography, as well as highlighting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal tourism attractions.

Tantalus Kiosk

Ready to start your Cultural Journey? Here’s a map. Kiosk locations, heading north, include:

  1. Horseshoe Bay
  2. Shannon Falls Provincial Park
  3. Stawamus Chief Provincial Park
  4. Britannia Beach
  5. Tantalus Lookout
  6. Tunnel Point
  7. Callaghan Creek

New highway signage representing corridor communities in both English and Aboriginal languages were also installed. These 14 community gateway signs are designed to look like rocks and derive from Squamish and Lil’wat traditional rock paintings. They also blend in nicely with the area’s rocky geography. The ministry’s standard green directional signs, which indicate distance to communities along the Sea to Sky Corridor, are also in both languages.

Keep an eye out for more than 100 guide signs indicating gorgeous viewpoints, historic sites and other points of interest along the way. You can spot these signs by their paddle shape, a common symbol for Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations.

With the cultural journey open to visitors from around the world, the ministry continues to improve the Sea to Sky Highway in creative ways with help from local First Nations. As we speak, er… blog, the finishing touches are being placed on the new Squamish Pedestrian Overpass, which features bridge supports designed by Squamish Nation artist Xwa-lack-tun (Rick Harry). The supports look like two local mythological creatures:  the thunderbird and the Coast Salish two-headed serpent.

The global spotlight may be shining brighter on London now, but the Sea to Sky Cultural Journey ensures tourists and B.C. residents are still invited to learn a bit about what makes the area special. Just as the recent Opening Ceremonies showcased a nation’s culture, as does one of our province’s most beautiful highways. We didn’t even need to call James Bond.

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