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Olympic torch to light up local spirit



One week before the 2010 Games begin, Whistler will get the party started when the Olympic Torch lights up the town.

It will pass through on its way to Vancouver with a symbolic stop to light a temporary Whistler cauldron.

"Whistler is honoured to be selected as a Celebration Community on the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay route...," said Mayor Ken Melamed in a statement released by the Resort Municipality of Whistler this week.

"The legacy of the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay and the Games will bring the spotlight on Whistler and will leave an enduring legacy in the hearts and memories of our community."

The RMOW has set aside $80,000 in its Games budget to put on the Torch Relay.

A community task force, made up of 15 members including RCMP, First Nations, the Whistler Arts Council and Tourism Whistler, will be responsible for planning the Whistler torch relay celebration. Details of the route and local torchbearers have yet to be released.

The task force is also responsible for nominating a community torchbearer who will light the temporary cauldron.

The community celebration will take place at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5 in Skiers Plaza.

By that time the torch will have travelled from Olympia, Greece, site of the first Olympic Games, over the Atlantic Ocean via airplane to begin its Canadian journey in Victoria on Oct. 30.

It will travel more than 45,000 kilometres around Canada - the longest domestic torch relay in the history of the Olympic Games. Along the way the torch will be carried by 12,000 torchbearers and will pass within a one-hour drive of 90 per cent of all Canadians.

The torch will travel through more than 1,000 Canadian communities from coast to coast during the 106 days leading up to the Games.

'Ask me, I'm a local' button for 2010

Whistler is taking advantage of its biggest community asset - its people - to help its 2010 guests feel more at home here during the Games.

A program is under development at municipal hall that would see thousands of buttons made and given to residents declaring: "Ask Me, I'm a Local."

"It provides the opportunity for locals to be ambassadors," said the RMOW's manager of communications, Michele Comeau.

It's another way for locals to be involved in the Games, she added.

The button is the brainchild of Janice MacKenzie of the Whistler Dental Group. She brought her idea forward at a Whistler 2020 task force meeting.

Details of the button program are still in the planning stages but there will be a brief orientation for button-wearers from the iHost program. That program is designed to help guests find their way through town and get any information they may need to make their stay in Whistler more enjoyable.

The RMOW will fund the program from the communications/community engagement portion of its Games budget. That budget sits at half a million dollars and includes things such as open houses, community events and the 2010 residents guide, which will be released in December.

Venue contingency fund close to drying up

Olympic organizers approved a million dollar draw from its venue contingency fund to do more work on 2010 buildings.

The venue contingency fund now sits at $310,000 out of a total venue construction budget of $580 million.

The latest $1.02 million draw, approved by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games (VANOC's) board of directors last week, covers things like the ongoing methane gas mitigation work at the Whistler Athlete Centre, related to the site's previous use as a landfill.

Also on the agenda at that board meeting was discussion about the ongoing challenges of raising revenue in the global recession.

The organization has yet to sell $12 million worth of outdoor advertising and if it can't meet its targets for things like advertising, merchandise and VIP hospitality packages, VANOC will be using up its $27 million revenue contingency fund.

"As we continue to work our way through a very difficult economic climate, we'll need to find new and additional resources and solutions to overcome the challenges that lie ahead," said CEO John Furlong.

On a more positive note, VANOC has met its $756.8 million domestic sponsorship target with the recent addition of B.C. based Alda Pharmaceuticals as the official supplier of hand sanitizer and disinfectant cleaning products.