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Intrawest could get money before Games: report



Whistler Blackcomb's owners could be compensated for use of the Olympic venue before the Games are over, according to a newspaper report.

A Feb. 7 story in the New York Post stated that Intrawest is "close to getting" part of a $40 million guarantee from VANOC, part of a "make whole" agreement to host Olympic events at Whistler Blackcomb.

The story, which does not name any of its sources, states that the Olympic organizing committee initially said it wouldn't determine how much it owes Intrawest until after the Games but that it has since changed its mind and will pay part of the guarantee before the Games end.

Intrawest has confirmed in the past that it has a private agreement with VANOC for Whistler Blackcomb to serve as a host venue for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Under the agreement, VANOC acknowledges that the Games will have an impact on the ski resort's operating revenues and a "make whole" element addresses the financial impact on Whistler Blackcomb.

The details of the make whole element remain private but reports have estimated that compensation could be between $40 million and $90 million.

The company has said that make whole agreements have been used in other Olympic cities to address the financial impacts on privately-owned venues in both Winter and Summer Games.

VANOC wouldn't comment when asked how much money Intrawest would receive for the use of Whistler Blackcomb during the Games, nor would it elaborate on how this amount has been determined.

It did, however, provide a statement from Dick Vollet, VANOC's vice-president of Mountain Operations, who said, "We are full steam ahead finalizing the Whistler Blackcomb venues for the Games and an exceptional experience for both athletes and spectators.

"We have an existing venue agreement with Whistler Blackcomb that we fully intend to honour. That agreement includes a make whole element that addresses financial impact on Whistler Blackcomb as a result of staging the Games. This will only be finally determined well after the Games are over."

The reports come after speculation in the media that the Canadian government could step in and bail out the ski company, which has reportedly missed a $524 million payment to creditors.

Reports previously stated that Canadian government could compensate Intrawest to the tune of $90 million but a spokeswoman for Heritage Minister James Moore quashed those claims, saying the federal government has "no responsibility" for Games-related debt under a multi-party agreement signed in 2002.

Last month Intrawest sold Panorama Resort in Invermere and the Village at Squaw Valley in California to local investors in those areas. The company sold Copper Mountain Resort and stakes in French ski areas last fall.

An auction for a major stake in Intrawest is scheduled to take place Feb. 19, right in the middle of the Olympic Games.