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Furlong sees Nordic Centre as Games showpiece

10 firms short-listed for design of Callaghan Valley facility

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The Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley will likely be the venue which is held up as the star of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

With near perfect snow conditions, low wind, steep slopes and kilometres of wilderness to cross-country ski through it will capture the imagination of visitors and athletes alike said John Furlong, chief executive officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee this week.

"I think the Callaghan Valley will take its place as the best anywhere in the world for what you can do in there," he said.

"I believe that athletes and sport will connect in the Callaghan Valley and look at it in absolutely deep awe of how impressive it is and how great it will play as (the site of) Olympic venues."

This week VANOC announced the 10 firms that have been short-listed to participate in the design process for the Whistler Nordic Centre. Twenty-six firms responded to the call for qualified companies.

Five firms have been chosen for general site engineering, six have been selected for the detailed design of the ski jumps and six have been asked to come up with designs for cross country and biathlon venues. Many of the companies have been selected to participate in all three areas.

All of the companies but one, MulvannyG2, which is from Bellevue Washington, are Canadian. None of the companies, which are meeting with VANOC this week, are allowed to comment at this stage of the process.

They must submit their detailed proposals to VANOC by the end of the month.

The first phase of development will begin in the Callaghan, which is about 30 km south and west of Whistler, in 2005. It will be completed in October of 2007.

The $102 million Nordic Centre will host cross country, biathlon, Nordic combined and ski jumping, all of which will be within walking distance of each other.

Furlong said the design will include exactly what needs to be included. With such a tight budget in place it’s unlikely any frills will be added in at this time.

"Part of the challenge for us now is to try to make sure that as we build these venues that we get each one of them built for the dollars that we have," he said.

"The primary area of focus for us today is to pin the program down to include only what we absolutely have to have and to not include anything that we do not need.

"Now some of the partners that we have in some of these projects might chose to want things included that we don’t need and there will be discussions that take place with them and they may be funded by others. But we will have to wait and see."

The details will be worked out in the coming months as the senior vice-presidents of the various divisions of VANOC settle into their new roles.

The board of VANOC met this week to finalize some of those appointments and it’s expected, said Furlong, that an announcement will be made June 22.

While Furlong would not name names he said he hopes the senior vice-presidents for sport, venues, Olympic planning and human resources will be finalized on that date.

That would leave positions for Olympic services, marketing and communications, chief financial officer and general counsel still to be filled.

Each candidate will negotiate their own compensation package depending on their experience, although all will be roughly in the same range said Furlong.

There have been more than 800 applicants for the initial positions advertised, from across Canada and around the world.

Candidates have fallen into three main categories, said Furlong. The first set are people who make working for the Olympics their career. While many of these people are well qualified Furlong has some reservations about hiring a lot of them.

"They are not necessarily the ideal candidate for us because we want people coming to our team to be inspired about what we are doing and not to have done it so many times that it is just more of the same kind of work," he said.

"But we will have some of them in the team."

The second type of candidate is one who has had a very strong career and is looking for a way to cap it before retiring.

The third is someone who also has a strong successful career and has no more financial goals to attain and is driven to apply for the job out of a desire to do something for Canada.

"I think we will end up with a bit of a mixture of people at the end and I think that will be good for us," said Furlong.

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