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Some elite athletes won't be staying in athletes' village

Alternate accommodation means athletes will be in top form, say officials



Canada’s elite alpine competitors will not being staying in the $131 million 2010 Olympic Athletes’ Village built to house them at Games time.

“The (athletes’) village is more of a staging location rather than where the athletes are actually staying,” said Ken Read the CEO of Alpine Canada Alpin (ACA), the governing body of alpine ski racing in Canada.

“That means they come through there, but when they are competing they are not staying there.”

ACA has already lined up accommodation in Whistler, though the exact location remains a secret. It will use the same accommodation for the February World Cup races and Canadian Championships as well as competitions in 2009.

Read said athletes bound for the Olympics will have been preparing for years, “and you want to be sure you have every single aspect thought of prior to going into competition.

“That includes the bed they sleep in, the food they eat, the utensils they use, everything. We can’t risk anything.”

The cost of the accommodation for the athletes outside the village is paid for by the ACA. The organization is funded by the federal government, sponsors and private contributions.

For 2007, with a financial year ending April 30, the ACA received $8.4 million from corporate advertising and sponsorships, $4.6 million from the federal government, $892,000 from corporate and personal donations, $598,000 from memberships and fees, and $1.9 million from fundraising, team fees and other sources. Alpine Canada’s budget for 2007 was nearly $16.5 million. For 2008 the organization is anticipating a $20 million budget.

Whistler’s $131 million athletes’ village, which will become affordable employee-restricted housing after the Games, is being partially funded by the 2010 Organizing Committee (VANOC) out of its government supported venues budget. VANOC will contribute $37.5 million to the village. The rest of the money is being borrowed by the municipality and will be paid back following the sale of the units to Whistler residents after the Olympics.

It’s likely Canada won’t be the only country housing its athletes outside the athletes’ village. Other well-heeled National Olympic Committees (NOC), such as Austria, will also keep their top athletes away from the village at competition time.

“It has been the case for decades and decades,” said Read.

Other Canadian athletes who will be competing in Whistler in 2010 — the ski jumpers, Nordic competitors and biathletes — are still working on their accommodations and have not decided how they will use the athletes’ village, which can house 2,750 athletes at Games time.

Tim Gayda, vice president of sport for VANOC said even with teams electing to stay outside of the village all the accommodation will be used, as teams travel with dozens of support staff, all of whom need accommodation.

“In terms of the number of beds we know we need those beds it is just more or less how they are allocated within each of the NOCs,” he said.

Gayda said it is common for competitors to go in and out of the athletes’ village as they compete.

Asked if VANOC was upset that athletes were choosing to stay elsewhere Gayda said: “In terms of it being upsetting we know that this is the reality of every Games.

“(Our) focus is to make sure we are providing a great environment for the athletes to prepare for their competition. That is the number one thing we want to make sure of.

“Then (we want) to provide them the kind of unique experience that you might only find in Whistler — that Canadian experience — for the NOCs that are coming to Canada. It is to create a once in a lifetime experience in terms of having all these nations together in the Olympic environment in this unbelievable setting in Whistler.”