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Eighty per cent support hosting 2010 Winter Olympic Games

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But Olympic watchdog groups call poll results ‘irrelevant’

Several locals have received calls in the last couple of weeks as the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation carries out polling to gauge support for hosting the Winter Games.

International marketing firm Ipsos-Reid, a "Friend of 2010," carried out the survey of people in B.C. and across Canada as an in-kind service.

It found over 80 per cent of British Columbians and Canadians support the bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler.

The survey was done for the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation in March, April and May as part of its preparations for the 22-question "mini-bid book" which each applicant city must submit to the International Olympic Committee by May 31st.

Only the results for March were released.

Bid spokesman Sam Corea said results for April and May would not be released in case it gave away valuable information to competitors.

"It says more than 80 per cent of Canadians and British Columbians support the bid for the 2010 Games and that is all that we are prepared to reveal at this time because that is what we have given to the International Olympic Committee," said Corea.

"We have figures (for April and May) but at this point because of international competition I can’t give you those figures.

"…Providing detailed polling information really could tip our hand competitively so what we know is the support is there. There is a clear majority in all numbers."

Whistler’s Van Powel, who co-manages an Olympic information Web site (www.whistlerolympicinformation.com) believes the poll is nothing more than "feel good-marketing."

"I won't put much stock in polls until I've seen a frank discussion of the implications," said Powel.

"Otherwise it strikes me as little more than feel-good marketing fluff.

"You know, I wonder how many people polled in the Kootenays today would say spending $70 million of taxpayers' money to build an Olympic ski jump north of Vancouver is more important than a hospital in Kimberley?

"Or how many British Columbians who have just seen their medical premiums go up by 50 per cent think a rapid transit line from the airport to downtown Vancouver is a priority in their life?

"How many B.C. lawyers feel having an Olympic luge run in Whistler is more important than funding legal aid? These Games would cost British Columbians over a billion dollars."

Am Johal of the Impact of Olympics on Community Coalition said from Vancouver that the poll results are meaningless as people do not have enough information about how the Games are going to impact communities to answer the question.

"I think without the full set of information about what it really means to host the Games the polling results are irrelevant," he said.

"Certainly if we were to conduct our own poll… and we asked the question, ‘would you be in favour of the Olympic Games if it meant cutbacks to services and evictions in low income neighbourhoods,’ what would the answer be then?

"These are questions being asked in a vacuum without the effects that often happen with the Games, if they are not planned properly, being available."

Johal believes public support is between 60 and 70 per cent.

He also questioned the Bid Corporation’s decision not to release results from all three months of polling.

"I think if they have the information they should present all of it to the public," said Johal.

"Their openness and transparency is going to be very important as this process goes on."

Corea said over the three months of polling residents of B.C. were surveyed separately and as part of a national poll.

In March 800 residents of B.C. were polled as part of an omnibus survey and asked: "As you may or may not know Vancouver has launched an effort to host the Winter Olympics in 2010. There will be a range of venues from the Greater Vancouver area up to Whistler. Do you support or oppose Vancouver hosting the 2010 Olympics?"

Eighty-two per cent of respondents said they supported hosting the Games. The poll is reliable within 3.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Across Canada support was at 88 per cent within 3.2 per cent 19 times out of 20. One thousand people were polled.

Corea would say the poll results for support across Canada "were stable" over the three months. The figures for B.C. "went up and down."

"We think this is very good at this point," said Corea.

"But we still have to continue to communicate the benefits of bidding and to hear concerns and topics from all residents as we do our presentations."

The bid organizers have held more than 500 presentations in the last year and a half, reaching 18,000 people.

Corea said people want information on more than just the events. They want to know what their communities will get out of having the Games and what the economic benefits or pitfalls might be.

"What you see in Whistler is regular concrete information now coming forth because now is the time when people are listening," said Corea, adding that the information is only available in the detail released thanks to the over 300 people who have taken part in work groups to put it together.

Corea said the results also tell the Bid Corp. that they are on the right track as far as sharing information with the public.

"It is confirming what we have been saying for the past two years, that the benefits and legacies of bidding is what people want to hear about," said Corea.

"They want to hear about the benefits and what is in it for the community as a legacy.

"People want to hear more than about the event itself. They want to hear what happens after and so I think by giving the economic information, the recent economic study and the information that came out of Salt Lake City, the reasons for supporting or not supporting seem to be on the economic side of it.

"That is certainly understandable as it is a large undertaking for any community."