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IOC Evaluation team now in Salzburg, Austria

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The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission is in Salzburg this weekend to study the venues and quiz proponents about the Austrian city’s bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Salzburg is competing with Vancouver/Whistler and Pyeongchang, Korea for the right to host the Games.

Last week the evaluation commission spent four days in Vancouver and Whistler.

As commission chair Gerhard Heiberg left for Vancouver’s airport he said: "We are very happy, proud, with many aspects (of Vancouver’s bid), so please don’t forget this.

"You have an excellent bid, no questions about it."

The question is, is B.C.’s bid good enough to win?

And even if Vancouver and Whistler’s bid is favoured by the evaluation commission that doesn’t mean B.C. will end up hosting the Games.

When the IOC finally votes all sorts of issues, from politics to pandering, come into play.

When the evaluation commission touches down in Salzburg more than 200 people will help them understand the Austrian bid.

They were to be greeted with a video message from Austria’s President Thomas Klestil, Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel. Premier Franz Schausberger, Leo Wallner, president of the Austrian Olympic Committee and an IOC member, and Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Salzburg’s mayor, Heinz Schaden, was to meet the team and Heiberg, who learned to ski in Salzburg, in person.

A walking tour was to take place through the streets of the historic town, home to Mozart, and they were to visit the planned site for the opening and closing ceremonies between two bridges on the Salzach River.

The team is to visit Kitzbuhel, which will host the alpine events, on Sunday before leaving Austria on Monday.

The challenges facing Salzburg, as outlined in an earlier report, include the athlete’s village and security.

It’s too far for some athletes to travel between events and the village. Some would face a trip of between 106 and 154 km daily.

Pyeongchang hosted the IOC evaluation team last month. In general the team was impressed.

"Pyeongchang could host a very, very good Games in 2010," said Heiberg.

But the Korean contender has for the most part been relegated to a distant third behind Vancouver and Whistler. Salzburg is considered to be the frontrunner.

There are significant challenges facing the Korean bid. They include the transportation system. However, a plan is already in place and $3.2 billion US funding has been guaranteed for highway improvements and the new rail links from Seoul to the various cities which would host the Olympic venues.

Korea will also have to build eight new winter sports venues, including ice sheets for hockey and skating. A bobsleigh/luge run and the downhill ski run will also have to be constructed.

Of concern is what will be done with some of these venues, especially the ice-sheets, after the Games.

The evaluation commission will release their reports on all three candidate cities on May 2.

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