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Sliding track injects over $1 million into corridor

Whistler to host 2013 World Luge Championships



The Whistler Sliding Centre is already beginning to earn its keep say Olympic officials.

Over 22 days of international training at the Olympic venue, ending last week, at least $1.3 million was injected into the local economy.

"We were very conservative with that as well," said WSC general manager Craig Lehto of the estimate.

Luge, bobsleigh, and skeleton teams and officials spent an estimated $61,000 a day on meals and accommodations within the Sea to Sky community he said.

That doesn't take into account money spent on training at local gyms, renting cars, renting storage for their equipment, and other discretionary spending.

Lehto said it is hoped that following the Olympics early World Cups and other competitions will be arranged to bring this kind of investment into the region.

"We want to have kick-off World Cups here when the town is a little bit quieter and get some stimulus into the economy," said Lehto.

"One of the legacy reasons for putting the track in Whistler was that we would have options of doing these types of things in the future... which will be a big benefit."

Whistler's track will be the first World Cup tour stop for the bobsledders and skeleton racers.

And it will host the 2013 World Luge Championships.

In a non-Olympic year it is estimated that the track will cost $2.8 million to run. Those costs are to be offset with revenues from an endowment fund set up by the province and the federal government to pay for venues after the Games and fees for service at the Sliding Centre.

Between Oct. 25 and Nov. 15 when the sliding teams were training here thousands of runs were taken at the track.

• Skeleton athletes from 17 countries took 1,006 runs

• Bobsleigh athletes from 19 countries took 913 runs

• Luge athletes from 29 countries took 2,307 runs.

Last year after the test events some changes were made to corner 12 so that the odds of making it through Corner 13 - fondly known as 50/50 for an athlete's chances of crashing - were improved.

Lehto said the millimetre savings taken off the concrete and the work done with surfacing ice does seem to have made the corner more forgiving.

"It is a daisy chain," he said. "So if you are not set up properly above it gets progressively more difficult."

The character of the track itself continues to grow with a few more corners gathering monikers. Corner 3 is commonly called Wedge, as it is tucked in between Corners 1 and 2.

Corner 7 remains Lueders' Loop after Canadian sliding athlete Pierre Lueders. Shiver has stuck to Corner 11 as it still logs some of the fastest times in the world.

Corners 12,13,14,15 are now known as the Gold Rush Trail for obvious reasons, while 13 still keeps its 50/50 nickname.

As the track continues to be used corner names will follow, said Lehto.

In general, said Lehto, organizers were pleased with field-of-play arrangements, with load in and load out of athletes going well.

"When the world is there you tend to learn a lot more," he said. "So we learned a lot."

"Where (athletes) were stopping and parking was actually even further than they will be for the Olympics so it was a test to see if they would put up with that and there weren't any issues that way. So we hope the Games will be a little bit of a nice surprise for them (as they will be closer)."

With only 85 days until the Games Lehto admits the adrenalin is kicking in.

"I feel everybody is getting excited and you can't help but get caught up in that excitement too," he said.

"I have to say, honestly, that I am getting really excited."



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