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Editorial

Watching the Games from the sidelines

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But getting a handle on Olympic accommodation is an issue for all of Whistler. The first group that has to be taken care of is the “Olympic family”. Family guests, as we know, can be the most trying. The size and quality of their rooms has to be just so.

What should not be an issue is how many rooms the Olympic family needs. The number should be set in stone and, like the size of the athletes’ village, should not be allowed to grow.

At Sestriere, the main mountain hub of the Torino Olympics, rooms for the Olympic family still had not been sorted out nine months before the Games began. Whether that was the IOC’s fault or TOROC’s is immaterial. What it meant was tour operators selling Olympic ticket packages couldn’t book rooms for their clients until the Olympic family’s needs were met. Scandinavian tour operators, who had sold packages to thousands of Nordic ski fans, were tracking down individual condo owners the summer before the Games, begging them to rent their unit.

VANOC keeps emphasizing that preparations for the 2010 Games are on schedule, and from VANOC’s perspective they may be. But until the Olympic family’s accommodation needs are finalized Whistler won’t be able to start committing accommodation to tour operators and ordinary people who want to be here during the Games.

One more Olympic-related opportunity that Whistler and the provincial government need to reach out and take hold of is the Nordic centre, whose future became more complicated with the revelation that the area is habitat for grizzly bears.

The Nordic centre is potentially the best Olympic venue legacy in Whistler. It is to be expanded and run by a Legacy Society after the Games, but the Legacy Society doesn’t exist right now. So no one is really responsible for making decisions in the best interests of the $110 million taxpayer-funded Nordic centre after 2010.

But there are all kinds of competing interests in the Callaghan, including logging, mining, commercial backcountry tour operators, First Nations and, now, grizzlies.

Acting Auditor General Arn v a n Iersel noted that, “The post-Games business plan for the Whistler Nordic Centre recommended add-on options such as additional trail development, a sizable daylodge, and food and beverage concessions so that post-Games revenues could be maximized.” He wrote that the decision to reduce the size and scope of the Nordic centre now “… will affect the ability of that venue to generate the revenues anticipated by the post-Games business plan.”