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Praise for Salzburg bid sounds familiar

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IOC evaluation team meets this week to compare notes on 2010 Winter Games candidates

The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission met this week in Lausanne, Switzerland to compare notes on its visit to the three candidate cities vying to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Its final report will be released May 2. But with the wrap up of the team’s visit to Salzburg, Austria, this week the focus now for all the candidate cities is winning the support of the IOC voters on decision day, July 2 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Salzburg was the last city to be evaluated.

"Our mission remains firm, which is to win the majority of votes on July 2 to bring the winter Games to Canada," said Sam Corea, spokesperson for the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation which hosted the evaluation team March 2 through 5.

"At every opportunity we are explaining the bid as we have always done, but the focus now is to make those 125 members or so say yes to 2010 in Vancouver and Whistler and we only need 51 per cent of them.

"Now whenever we speak locally or nationally it is international because people are watching They want to know what is going on in Vancouver."

Vancouver and Whistler are competing against Salzburg, and Pyeongchang, Korea to host the 2010 Games.

Gerhard Heiberg, chairman of the evaluation team, praised all three-candidate cities for their plans during site visits conducted over the last two months.

"The verdict is in," Heiberg said in Vancouver. "(This city) will host the best Winter Games ever," if awarded the Winter Olympics.

In Austria Heiberg said, "There is no question about it, you have the best venues in the world.

"What we’ve seen and heard gives us a clear conviction that Salzburg could deliver a very good Games. We are leaving with a feeling that this city would be a great choice."

Pyeongchang was also commended.

"The presentations are excellent," said Heiberg during the team’s visit in mid-February.

"On our questions, the answers are excellent. So we are very happy."

But each candidate was also alerted to several challenges with their bid.

For Vancouver the challenges included the upgrade to the Sea to Sky Highway, accommodation in Whistler, the budget for security, and the proposal to host the opening and closing ceremonies inside at B.C. Place Stadium.

This week we learned what some of the challenges are for Salzburg, generally considered Vancouver’s chief rival.

The bid’s transportation operating budget needs, "much, much, more," said Heiberg.

The team was also concerned that accommodation hadn’t been secured yet to meet the requirement of 20,000 rooms for the "Olympic family."

To date 13,000 rooms have been secured. But Salzburg bid spokesman Michael Schuen told the Pique this week that work only began on getting rooms in the last two weeks. There are 145,000 rooms in the Olympic region and Schuen believes there should be no problem in securing the rest.

The evaluation team also raised concerns about the cramped nature of the finish area at the snowboarding venue in St. Johann and the 90-metre jump at Ramsau is too far from the nearest Olympic village at Amadé.

There were also some reservations voiced by evaluators about Salzburg’s plans to build a stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies between two bridges which cross the Salzach River.

But according to media reports the Salzburg bid was quick to answer most of the concerns and pose solutions where possible.

For example, the commission after visiting the media centre said it was too small at 53,300 square metres. But the Salzburg bid quickly pointed out that according to plans the centre was actually 89,500 square metres as it has multiple floors.

The Salzburg bid also changed the locations of the Hellbrunn cross-country sprint venue after questions were raised about separating it from the main event venue at Amadé.

In fact putting the sprint back with the rest of the events is cheaper and easier for the Salzburg bid. They had suggested the event be run in front of the castle as part of the celebration if the city.

Salzburg scored high in many areas including culture.

"From a cultural standpoint you actually have a very strong bid – nobody can beat you there," Heiberg told reporters in Salzburg last Sunday.

"You would be second to nobody."

Salzburg is, of course, world famous for the festival it hosts there each summer.

"We will have a festival for the Games and the summer festival will be a role model for that," said Schuen.

"This was one part that I think (the team) was quite impressed with. The president of the Salzburg summer festival presented it.

"They all felt comfortable and experienced the Austrian hospitality and we succeeded in showing them what that was, and that for us, that was at least the most important thing."

Heiberg also praised the Salzburg’s bid venues, especially Kitzbuehel, known for the famed Streif downhill track, which will host the men’s downhill and related events.

"We had a great day in Kitzbuehel, even testing the snow," Heiberg told Associated Press.

"The resort could become an asset for the Salzburg bid. It has a great name, a great setting and is a fantastic sport resort."

Schuen said Salzburg was pleased with the team’s response.

"At the last press briefing the commission itself said there are three pillars of the Winter Games," he said.

"The first one is sports and they told us we had the best venues in the world, the second was culture and they said we are second to nobody, and the third was the environmental aspect and they said it was (excellent).

"We think that Salzburg and the regions live the three pillars of sport. Winter sports, culture and the environment are part of daily life anyway so it would be for us natural to combine the three.

"It seems that we have shown them how we would like to do that and it seems that they have got it."

Salzburg bid chief, Egon Winkler, told Reuters he considers the bid particularly strong when it comes to the technical side. All the venues can be reached within an hour using a sprawling road and rail network and the majority of necessary facilities already exist.

Salzburg, where one in every three residents are employed directly or indirectly in tourism, has to build four ice rinks, the Olympic Village and the site for the opening and closing ceremonies to host the event.

If Salzburg won the bid to host the 2010 Games it would be the first time the Games would be held in more than one country at once: Salzburg has opted to hold the luge and bobsleigh events in Koenigssee in the German state of Bavaria.