Opinion » Editorial


A troubling trend



Anyone in Whistler who has followed the 2010 Olympics with even a thimble of interest knows that the athletes’ village is being built on donated Crown land next to the former landfill site, across the highway from Function Junction. They also know that most of the athletes’ village will become resident-restricted housing after the Games.

Most of these basic facts have been part of Whistler’s Olympic plans for years. A few other details about the Whistler athletes’ village have been championed repeatedly: the village will use a district energy system, drawing heat from Whistler’s sewage treatment plant; the buildings will be built to LEED standards; the whole project will be spearheaded by the Whistler 2020 Development Corporation; and keen followers may know that the projected cost for the whole athletes’ village is about $130 million.

Less well known is the fact that VANOC is only putting up a fraction of the $130 million. Whistler is responsible for most of the costs, and figuring out how to finance the project has been a challenge.

Whistler couldn’t make the numbers work until it received permission from the provincial government to make some of the free Crown land available at market prices. The sale of a limited number of single-family lots at market value is now an option Whistler has to help finance the project.

But due to ever-rising construction costs, multiple partners and the sudden frenzy to get the athletes’ village built, getting detailed, up to date information on the project is about as simple as nailing jelly to a wall.

The athletes’ village was originally supposed to house about 2,400 athletes and officials. Whistler would provide beds for about 2,050 and VANOC would provide another 350 beds in its athletes’ centre within the athletes’ village. Then, two years after the Games were awarded, the IOC decided the athletes’ village needed an additional 600-800 beds. Whistler said it wasn’t going to pay for them so last week a Partnerships B.C. report suggested VANOC would dip into its contingency fund and put up $25 million for the extra beds. That figure has yet to be confirmed.

VANOC is responsible for most of the athletes’ centre, which will consist of three buildings: a 20,000 square foot high performance gymnasium with a weight room, meeting space and offices; a 98-room lodge capable of accommodating 200 athletes; and townhouses that will provide another 150 beds. Following the Games the athletes’ centre will be operated by the Legacies Society, the group that will also be responsible for running the Nordic centre and the sliding centre. The gym will be used by local and visiting athletes and the 350 beds will be made available for athletes visiting Whistler to train or compete.