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Businesses told to start planning for Olympic opportunities

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Bid corporation committed to multi-modal transportation solution

Local businesses were told they need to start planning now if they want to capitalize on opportunities a Winter Olympic Games might bring to Whistler.

And they were reminded at a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting that many believe the future of B.C. lies in pursuing tourism.

"I think for that reason alone the Olympics are worth pursuing," said Terry Wright, vice-president of the Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation.

"I think the (winter) Olympics are still small enough that we can get all the opportunities and all the benefits with none of the problems."

At an earlier meeting the top 10 concerns of chamber members were listed in order of importance as being:

• Accommodation and Housing;

• Transportation;

• Lasting benefits;

• Local business opportunities;

• Infrastructure;

• Local support;

• Security and terrorism;

• Cost and funding sources;

• Quality of services for guests and locals;

• Olympic merchandizing.

Wright said options were still being discussed around where the Whistler athletes village would be. The hope is to use the village as part of an overall plan to increase the land-bank of the municipality, which would help out in the future when it comes to accommodation and housing.

But the athletes village must also work for the Games.

Many of the athletes in Salt Lake have found accommodations elsewhere because they are facing up to a 75-minute commute to get to their venues.

How much of the Whistler athletes village is permanent and how much, if any, will be temporary is still being discussed. The current plan is for the village to be a permanent legacy for resident housing.

Studies have shown that real estate values have not been overly affected by the Games.

But rental accommodation is another matter. Wright said there were houses for rent during the Salt lake Games for as much as $57,000. Most remain unrented in that price range.

But there is no doubt that short-term demand increases and markets respond by charging more.

That’s true for businesses too. The best plan, said Wright is to aim for the long term and think about who will be renting after the Games are over.

On the transportation front Wright said the bid corporation was committed to a multi-modal plan using marine, road, rail and even some helicopters to get people where they need to be.

There is already a commitment in place for 24 high-speed marine craft to run from Vancouver to Squamish, where passengers would be transferred to buses or trains.

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