Westbank First Nation thanked for Olympic podium

Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell and Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart presented a gift of appreciation to the Westbank First Nation for donating the wood used to build the podium on which Canada’s first-ever Olympic gold medal on home soil was celebrated.

“Alexandre Bilodeau’s emotional gold medal celebration at Cypress Mountain is one of the strongest images of the 2010 Olympic Games,” said Stewart. “And to Okanagan residents, there is an extra sense of pride that history was made on wood grown and harvested in the Westbank First Nation’s community forest.”

Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie was presented with a special 76-cm x 76-cm x 10-cm (30-inch x 30-inch x 4-inch) shadow box containing a medal tray identical to the ones used during the Games, and a photo of a jubilant Bilodeau on top of the podium. Chief Louie also received a special edition, coffee-table book featuring all of the podiums, printed specifically to recognize donating licensees and a letter of thanks from Premier Gordon Campbell.

“The community forest provides our membership with meaningful employment, decision-making on resources, and reinforces our connection to the land,” said Westbank First Nation’s Forestry Manager Grant Thompson. “The podium project extended that connection to the Olympics and the world, and was an immense source of pride to our community.”

“We used the podiums and venues like the award-winning Richmond Oval and Vancouver Convention Centre to highlight British Columbian wood products to millions of Olympic viewers around the world,” said Bell. “By increasing our sales to international markets like China, we will continue to generate forestry jobs in communities across the Province.”

The lodgepole pine for the podium was felled, processed, trucked and milled by members of the Westbank First Nation. It was blessed by a community Elder and signed, with best wishes to the athletes, by the students at Sensisyusten House of Learning, Westbank First Nation’s elementary school. The wood was converted into panels, cut into complex shapes using sophisticated computer-controlled machinery and assembled into a podium in Vancouver. It was used at freestyle skiing events at Cypress Mountain. A profile of the podium is at: www.for.gov.bc.ca/mof/Olympics/podiums/Podium_Profile_Westbank.pdf.

The Ministry of Forests and Range sourced the wood and co-ordinated the production of 23 podiums used at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The podiums were made from 18 wood types donated from community forest operators and other forest licensees around the province. Wood for 14 of the podiums was donated by community forests.

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