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Poole enthusiastic about virtues of the Games

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Jack Poole is ready to sell the world on the Vancouver-Whistler Olympic bid, he’s just not sure what he’s selling as far as the transportation link between the two towns.

Poole, chairman and CEO of the 2010 bid, appeared before Whistler council for the first time Monday. His message was of the benefits of the Games, including $2.5 billion in incremental tax revenue that otherwise wouldn’t happen.

"That’s not government spending, that’s visitor spending," Poole said. "You take the cost of security, facilities, the (Vancouver) convention centre and you still have $1 billion leftover."

The capital budget for facilities for the Games is $620 million. On June 7 the federal and provincial governments announced they would split those costs. The expanded Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre is expected to cost at least $500 million. The federal and provincial governments have yet to come to an agreement on funding. Estimates for security are currently about $250 million.

The budget for the Games themselves is $1.2 billion. Poole said revenue from the Games is expected to be $1.3 billion. He noted that Salt Lake City recently announced a $57 million US profit from the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Poole also said the bid would require no further financial contributions from Whistler or Vancouver, and that the province would indemnify the municipality and the city against any further costs.

Poole outlined the challenges facing the bid as transportation in the Sea to Sky corridor, expansion of the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, and a fixed transit link between downtown Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport in Richmond. Poole said he expected an announcement from the province regarding its transportation policy by October.

"We’re waiting with some optimism," he told council.

Poole said the mini-bid book submitted to the IOC last month outlines four ways to get from Vancouver to Whistler during the Olympics: by rail, by passenger ferry, by bus and by helijet. He also noted that one of the largest fleets of helijets in the world is based in Vancouver.

As for the present state of the Sea to Sky highway Poole said: "I think we’d suffer (when compared to the highway networks that are part of the Bern and Salzburg bids).

"We’ve asked the province; we need a safe, secure route. I believe it’s an issue for the region," Poole said. "We leave it to the ministry. The only thing the Bid Corporation imposes is a timeline."

Poole added there is "very little difference between a perceived concern and a real concern," and said the European cities bidding for the 2010 Games continue to make the Sea to Sky highway an issue.

"We need to come back with something to answer them," he said.

Poole noted the Salzburg and Bern bids have more than one route from the main cities to their proposed ski facilities. He said the Vancouver group was going to have to work hard to sell the transportation aspect of its bid.

"I think we can, but I don’t know what we’re going to sell, yet."

Poole also touched on the mini-bid book, noting there was criticism in the Lower Mainland media because Bern and Jaca, Spain had made their mini-bid books public while Vancouver had not.

"There’s nothing in the book you don’t already know," he said.

"This is a political campaign. We’re competing with other cities. We’re not going to show them how we presented."

Dave Kirk commented that Whistler councillors had an opportunity to review a copy of the mini-bid book, before it was returned to the bid corporation. He described it as, "well organized, interesting – but not as world-shattering as I might have thought."

Poole was also asked about the impact of the Olympics on real estate prices and affordability. He said studies had been done of previous Olympics.

"The short answer is real estate values tend to go up… It’s hard to imagine values going down.

"It’s a problem, but I don’t have any answers."

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