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IOC evaluation report leads to changes in Whistler

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New temporary media village will free up hotel rooms in village

A village for 1,500 will be built at Cheakamus North above the landfill if Whistler and Vancouver win the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The temporary accommodation, which will house media during the Olympics, is being put in place in response to comments made by the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission visit and report.

During the evaluation visit in March team members said they thought travelling between Vancouver and Whistler everyday for the media was "too far."

They also suggested that some members of the IOC family and sponsors may wish to spend longer in the resort than the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation had assumed, which would be difficult considering the limited number of rooms available.

Creating a village for the media solves both those problems said Terry Wright, vice-president of bid development for the bid corp.

"By putting the media village in it does two things," said Wright.

"It means the media can live and work in Whistler full-time throughout the course of the visit and it frees up some of the accommodation we do have booked in the village so we can provide more Olympic sponsor and national Olympic committee and rights holder and VIP accommodation.

"This is, frankly, a good thing for the resort because we are going to be able to put more of the traditional resort type customer into the resort during the Olympics.

"They are the ones that spend money and need services and want other experiences and will ski, so I think that is very positive."

Available accommodation is being added all the time to the 2010 list. Wright said 400 hotel rooms have been added since the last report. In total there are 7,400 rooms available in Whistler, of which up to 3,500 will be temporary rooms in the athletes and media villages.

The media village will be made up of rented block trailers.

It definitely won’t be glamorous but it will do the trick. Other amenities will also be placed at the site, such as a dinning hall and the whole complex will be hooked up to water and sewer.

The village will be rented out to media outlets but it is likely the whole complex will still cost between $3 million and $7 million to put in place.

The money will come from the $90 million contingency fund set up by the bid corp.

Wright doesn’t see the extra cost as a problem. In fact, he said cost changes facing the 2010 bid may be considerably less than those facing Salzburg (AUS) and Pyeongchang (KOR), the other two candidate cities for the 2010 Games.

"If you look at it, it is the only significant change to our whole concept that they have recommended," said Wright.

"Compare that to some of the other (candidates).

"On a $1.3 billion operating and $600 million capital – on a $2 billion dollar event – and after a four day exhaustive review (by the evaluation commission) to have to make one change is pretty acceptable."

Having a media village in Whistler also gets rid of the headache of rounding up reporters, technicians and others in Vancouver and bussing them to Whistler everyday.

There will also be a temporary broadcast centre at Base II on Blackcomb. Other media, including print, will work out of the renovated conference centre and perhaps another location.

And there is another silver lining to the creation of the media village. If you add the accommodation in the new village to the proposed athlete’s village in the Callaghan Valley it represents almost 100 per cent of the rooms needed to host the Paralympics.

"This really means the resort is back to normal a lot sooner," said Wright.

Originally the media and others attending the Paralympics would have been staying in the village.

The other major cost addition to the Games is the establishment of a doping centre in Vancouver.

Originally the bid corp. planned to fly samples back to a lab in Montreal but Olympic contracts suggested the doping centre needed to be closer to the Games.

The cost: $2.5 million.

"We are probably somewhere in the range of a total exposure of between $7 million and $10 million dollars here," said Wright referring to the total cost of changes.

Another change, which affects Whistler, is the decision to have a medal plaza in the resort.

"We had hoped all along to give out the medals here," said Maureen Douglas, director of Community Relations for the bid corp in Whistler.

"We were actually going to make a presentation to the IOC proposing that the medals be given out here."

The 2010 bid book had suggested medal winners in Whistler be flown down to a medal plaza in Vancouver. But evaluation team members weren’t convinced that was a good idea. Instead they suggested handing them out in Whistler at the festival plaza which will be created in the Whistler Golf Club’s driving range.

"It is really exciting and it would become part of the night-time festivals," said Douglas.

The ceremony would be broadcast to the Vancouver site and Vancouver’s medal ceremony would be seen here on giant screens.

Overall 2010 bid officials were pleased with the evaluation commission report released May 2.

"The good news for us most of all was that there were absolutely no surprises," said Douglas.

"It just reaffirmed that we were on the right path and we want to keep delivering the message internationally through to July 2 (when the IOC will choose a host for the 2010 Games)."

While the evaluation commission does not rank the candidate cities in its report the general consensus is that Vancouver and Whistler are out in front.

However, Douglas said the bid corp. still sees it as a close race.

"We think we are in a horse race and if you are in any good race you just keep moving forward," she said.

"We all have our heads down and are moving to the finish line. We are not done until we are done."

Despite concerns over the Sea to Sky Highway the evaluation commission report found the bid’s transportation plans were solid.

Pyeongchang and Salzburg also had challenges identified in transportation. Salzburg’s airport is relatively small but the city has a well-developed bus and rail system.

Pyeongchang is facing considerable upgrades to its transportation system and plans to spend $2.8 billion US between 2002 and 2009.

Other issues raised for Pyeongchang were risks associated with the construction of a new alpine venue, challenges with provision of accommodation, and minimal experience in hosting winter sports for the disabled.

Salzburg’s evaluation was mostly positive but bid proponents were urged to look more closely at the planning of the Paralympics. There was also concern over noise disturbances at the athlete’s villages, and the amount of accommodation secured so far. Salzburg’s plans also offer little or no legacy for ice events in the region.

Since the IOC report was released Salzburg has announced plans to condense the number of sports venues.

For Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly the Vancouver bid’s evaluation was a validation of the hard work done so far.

"This recognizes the huge amount of effort that everyone collectively… (has) put in," he said.

"I think we’ve got a really well thought out vision which really addresses athletes’ needs. The compactness of the venues, the venues themselves and the athlete’s villages are all well considered and the athletes really have had a huge say.

"After all it is about them."

The bid corp will get a chance to address the evaluation commission’s concerns in a report due into the IOC by May 15.

The IOC will decide July 2 which candidate will host the 2010 Games.

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