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IOC wants more Whistler rooms

IOC officials generally pleased at VANOC’s Olympic preparations

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By Clare Ogilvie

Organizers of the 2010 Winter Games need more accommodation in Whistler according to top Olympic officials.

At issue is the number of media who are likely to want to come and work and stay in the resort.

“That number is a bit of a moving target right now,” said René Smith-Valade, vice president of communications for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games.

The concern was raised after a 12-member team from the International Olympic Committee visited Vancouver and the corridor over two days, last week for an update on the Games.

“What we committed to the IOC at the end of the project review was that we would continue to work aggressively in finding solutions,” said Smith-Valade.

Until now VANOC has said that it expects about 1,600 media and broadcasters in Whistler on any given day. But Smith-Valade said it is likely that that number will increase, along with the number of sponsors, partners and athletes expected to stay in the resort.

“... We were given indications during their (IOC) project review that there could be several hundred more media than we were expecting, and we are also looking at potentially more athletes than we were expecting, and our sponsors and partners are coming forward with their request for the number of rooms that they believe they need in Whistler,” said Smith-Valade.

“All of it adds up to far more need than there is capacity so we need to work hard to find some creative solutions.”

VANOC is still pursuing using cruise ships in Squamish for accommodation. But the IOC press commission, which was part of the visiting team last week, made it clear during their visit that putting press on the ships during the Games was not acceptable.

“Their logic was that if a press conference is called in Whistler they need to be 10 to 15 minutes away, not 40 minutes away,” said Smith-Valade, adding that many of the media were unhappy with the situation at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, which saw those housed in Torino travelling for up to an hour and a half to get to mountain venues.

The IOC visiting team was briefed on all venues. They heard that three were behind schedule, the Whistler Sliding Centre, The Richmond Oval and Hillcrest Stadium. However, said Smith-Valade, all are expected to finish on time.

VANOC’s long-awaited business plan was also presented to the IOC delegation. The plan is before VANOC’s board this week and after review it will be released to the public early next year.

There were also some preliminary discussions about TV revenues. The IOC has negotiated record deals with media outlets and Games organizers are hoping that some of the increased revenues will filter down.

“Overall it went really well,” said Smith Valade. “They gave us a really strong and positive endorsement of the key areas.”

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