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IOC wants more beds in village

Mayor said it's up to partners to decide where additional money will come from

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As he asked Whistler to let go of its arena dreams, VANOC CEO John Furlong urged the resort to concentrate its efforts on the venues already planned for Whistler.

In particular, he spoke of the athletes’ village, which looks like it could get bigger and more expensive in the months to come.

A recent multi-million dollar request from the International Olympic Committee is calling for an additional 350 beds in the village development.

That will cost between $10 million and $20 million.

Whistler’s mayor said the municipality is not prepared to take on that cost or the risk of selling the additional units after the Games.

"The expectation that we’re prepared to assume risk for 350 extra places, that’s presumptuous," said Ken Melamed.

"Our approach is no extra cost and no additional risk. Part of the risk that we keep referring to is not just construction risk, but absorption risk – how many units can we safely sell? If they don’t sell, who carries the debt?"

And so, after many months spent securing funding for the $130 million athletes’ village and developing a sound business plan, the goalposts have suddenly been moved on Whistler.

The business plan presented in June details the funding for 2,065 athletes beds in 251 units.

The new request adds more units to the development. Meanwhile Whistler still has concerns about the uptake for hundreds of employee housing units post Games, as hundreds more units are developed in the valley before the Olympics.

The discussion about more beds and more money is for Whistler’s partners said the mayor, namely VANOC, the IOC and the federal and provincial governments.

In his letter to council this week, asking Whistler to drop the arena, VANOC CEO John Furlong asked the municipality to plan for the increased accommodation at the village, as VANOC worked to secure financing.

"VANOC would encourage the Municipality and Whistler Development Corporation to initiate the planning to provide for accommodation of increased athletes and officials in the Whistler Athletes’ Village and Athlete Centre," wrote Furlong. "VANOC will work with Whistler to resolve the financial implications of this additional works."

VANOC and partners are in negotiations on how to fund the increased beds.

At VANOC’s request this week, Whistler turned down that $20 million and its chance to build the arena.

That decision saw $2 million go to Whistler and $18 million go into VANOC’s construction program contingency.

Dave Cobb, VANOC’s executive vice president of revenue, marketing and communications, said in an e-mailed statement: "We are actively working in partnership with the IOC and our partners to determine what the best method will be for addressing the need for more accommodation. Understandably, as we are still determining costs and the final resolution of the issue, we will not speculate at this time."

The request for more beds came after the debriefing from the Torino Winter Games.

What also became evident at that time is there is an increased need for media services at the Whistler Broadcast and Media Centres.

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