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Athletes’ village moving into overlay stage

Temporary structures will start to be assembled mid-summer

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As work starts to wind down on the permanent structures of Whistler's 2010 athletes' village, the Vancouver Organizing Committee has quietly moved its portable structures into place and is getting ready to start work on thousands of square feet of temporary structures like the main dining tent and athlete services.

Nejat Sarp, vice president of services and villages for the athletes' village, said it's a massive project that has to be organized down to the smallest detail.

"We're really looking to capitalize on the weather, so with that in mind we will really start to mobilize in the latter part of July and early August," he said. "In a nutshell, the project is well and truly on schedule... we're very confident that we'll be able to get the temporary (structures) pretty near completion towards the end of the fall period."

Most of the prefabricated buildings are on site, and are in the process of being placed on concrete pads and being hooked up services. The tents will start to arrive in August, and should be up and serviced by October.

"There's the main dining tent, the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) services tent, a tent for a clinic, structures for support services like loading docks," said Sarp.

"In terms of total square footage I don't know off the top of my head, but the main dining tent itself is 40,000 square feet. It's the biggest structure, and some very significant work needs to be done (to set up and service tents, and connect tents with the village)."

The Whistler Development Corporation, which is building the athletes' village in partnership with the Resort Municipality of Whistler, will hand over keys to VANOC for exclusive use starting on Nov. 1. There will still be Games-related construction on site, mostly related to the overlay. Around Jan. 22 the area will be secured with checks at the gate and a complete sweep of the property. After Jan. 22 you will need accreditation to access the village.

The lockdown includes perimeter fencing around the village, and at this point that won't include any of the Interpretive Forest trails.

"The whole idea of the Games is that, yes, you need to secure the location of the village, but you also need to let the community continue to enjoy themselves," he said. "If a decision is made it will be to maintain the integrity of the village, but also to allow the community to have a normal lifestyle as much as possible."

The allocation of beds to NOCs is also underway. While many teams have already booked space outside the athletes' village, at least until the day of their event, Sarp says the village will be busy during the Games.

"First of all we have the IOC rule 39, which allows each NOC a certain number of people they can have accredited to stay in the village, which is based on the size of the team, which in turn is based on athletes qualifying for disciplines," Sarp said.

The exact number of athletes per team won't be confirmed until the World Cup qualifying period wraps up in late January, but Sarp says they have a good idea what to expect given past history and current rankings.

"We can change right up until the end of January, but the actual changes are minimal in comparison to (our estimates)."

The first phase, currently underway, is to book space for the top 25 or 30 teams, which will be bringing the most athletes and have the largest requirements for beds, office space, etc. After that VANOC will talk to smaller teams.

"Basically we'll go through the whole process, and it will take until mid-October for the larger teams, November and December for medium-size teams, and (we'll accommodate) the smaller teams right before the village is opened."

Each NOC will be given a set of keys based on the number of athletes and accredited officials that will be staying in the village.

Sarp says they are not starting from scratch, but using a template for organizing villages that has been used for past Games.

While some beds may be empty at the start, Sarp expects the village to fill up during the Games.

"What is most likely is that athletes might stay outside (the village) prior to the night of competition, but once the competition is finished then they'll move back into the village," he said. That has been the experience at past Games.

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