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Squamish and Pemberton back 2010 Olympic bid



The Vancouver-Whistler bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is meeting with broadbase community support along the Sea to Sky corridor, according to the bid organisers.

The Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation has been meeting with businesses and political representatives in the area over the past six weeks including the Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish councils and chambers of commerce, the Mount Currie band and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

Bid corporation CEO, Don Calder, said many residents see the Olympics as a catalyst for achieving other objectives.

"People are interested in understanding what opportunities might arise and whether services, such as an improved rail link between Vancouver and Whistler, will be brought in because of the Olympic split venue proposal."

Calder said the International Olympic Committee sees community support as key component to any bid, especially in the early stages of the bidding process.

"The first stage of our international bid, at the end of next year, must score high on technical capability," said Calder. "That means a sound transport, accommodation and sport venue structure as well as widespread community support.

"The province, Canada and local communities will be needing to show financial support, volunteer support — it’s a huge co-operative effort."

Pemberton mayor Elinor Warner said the Olympics will probably jump-start scheduled flights into Pemberton, in addition to the current private and emergency users.

She said the Winter Games would boost the overall economy.

"I am sure many visitors who go to Whistler for the Games would continue down the road to Pemberton. Also many locals here work in Whistler so extra money would flow back to the town that way."

The Squamish Chamber of Commerce said local businesses strongly support the Olympic bid, but are taking a wait-and-see approach before gearing up for the games.

Chamber manager, Karen Hodson, said if the bid goes through, Squamish could benefit hugely from increased consumer traffic and investment. The community’s main concern is how transportation would be organised, she said.

"Squamish could potentially miss out on a lot of the traffic if commuter links between Whistler and Vancouver didn’t stop here or if the road (Highway 99) was re-routed, as has been suggested."

Likewise, District of Squamish councillor Paul Lalli, said Squamish sees itself as an integral part of the Olympic bid process and is determined to be included in both planning and transport links.

The direction the Ministry of Transportation and Highways will likely be taking with the Sea to Sky route will be apparent later this month, with the release of its draft Multi-Modal Corridor Transportation Study.

The study looks at possible road, rail, bus and marine infrastructure improvements that would support the 2010 Winter Olympic bid and other event traffic to Whistler over the next 25 years.

The draft document has already been shown to local councils. Ministry of Highways spokesperson, Dan Mayberry, said public feedback is now needed.

"From October 30 we will be having a series of open houses in Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish and Lions Bay to get feedback on the study," said Mayberry.

The document is due for completion by spring 2001 — almost a year later than originally planned.

Despite growing signs of "Olympic fever" along the corridor, there appears to be little going on in terms of preparation plans among local businesses. Hodson said many people believe a successful Toronto bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics would sound the death knell for a B.C. Olympics, since the IOC would not support successive games in one country.

"Until we know the outcome of the Toronto bid next July people aren’t making plans, since that will probably throw a domino one way or another," she said.

Calder admits it would be unusual for one country to be awarded both the summer and winter games two years apart. But, he said it is possible.

"In the 1930’s Lake Placid, New York and Los Angeles hosted the winter and summer Olympics in the same year."

He said a Toronto victory does not mean Whistler and Vancouver would abandon its efforts. Bids, he noted, are surer the second time around. "Beijing lost the Millennium Games to Sydney by two votes and is now a very strong contender for the 2008 games, having made major improvements to its infrastructure problems," said Calder. "If we do not get 2010, we will try again for 2014 or 2018 with an even stronger proposal."

The bid corporation says more than half of the $20 million needed for the initial technical part of the international bid has already been committed. Working groups have already been set up to oversee sections of the bid including accommodation needs, venues and cultural programs.

TransLink CEO Ken Dobell will be chairing the potentially controversial transportation committee.

Member partners of the 2010 Bid Corporation are the Province of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Canadian Olympic Association.

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