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Questions remain after Heiberg's comments



O’Reilly says IOC delegation impressed with Whistler’s commitment to environment

They came, they saw, they skied.

This week Whistler played host to the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission as the resort’s quest to co-host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games continued.

The team arrived by bus Monday morning, after stopping at Cypress Mountain where the freestyle events are to be held.

As the evaluation team walked toward a display tent at Creekside life in the resort went on as usual. Few gave the group a second look. Instead skiers and boarders concentrated on getting up the mountain to enjoy the skiff of fresh snow which had fallen earlier and the brilliant sunny skies.

In fact the mountain was so enticing 10 members of the evaluation team, including chairman Gerhard Heiberg, hit the slopes themselves checking out the Dave Murray downhill, the proposed site of the men’s downhill event.

By all accounts the run was judged a success.

What appears to have been less of a success was the drive to the resort.

In an off-the-cuff remark Heiberg told BCTV News on Global that Whistler was "too far" from Vancouver.

He later clarified the remark saying: "No, I wouldn’t say that. We don’t want to change nature. This is the distance up here. What I said and what I think is that improvement of the road is necessary and you are going to do it whether you get the Games or not. We are very happy with that."

However, on Wednesday Canadian Press again quoted Heiberg as saying, "It is a distance that is too far."

Sam Corea, spokesman for the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation, believes the team does not see the road as an obstacle to winning the bid.

"We have always known that Whistler is a mountain resort and a mountain resort is not located next to downtown Vancouver," said Corea.

"It’s not so much the distance that is an issue it is the time factor."

Ministry of Transportation officials believe highway upgrades will shave about 25 minutes off the commute during the Olympic Games.

"When Heiberg heard more and we further explained that the people who compete in Whistler and who have Olympic business in Whistler will not be travelling the road on a daily basis… I think the concerns were addressed," said Corea.

In fact as the team was wowed by the resort the concern then became whether the village could support all the people who would want to be here.

"Maybe Whistler is too good in that (the evaluation team felt) that perhaps there will be even more demand and everyone will want to be in Whistler for the whole Games," said Corea.