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Sustainable legacies of Olympic bid 'a work in progress'

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The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Bid Corporation has not followed Whistler's lead down the Natural Step path towards sustainability for the 2010 Games.

Instead, they have been looking to Whistler as a guide and developing their own framework and set of principles.

"We are trying to develop something that would be of value to future hosts of the Games," said Ken Baker, executive director of environmental sustainability with the bid at last week's Olympic InfoZone meeting.

"The Sustainable Management System would be a legacy. It has not been done in past Games."

Even though the bid has not chosen the Natural Step route, they will still be looking to Whistler's initiatives for guidance.

"AWARE remains hopeful that they will adopt sound scientific principles in their sustainability framework for the bid," said Eckhard Zeidler, AWARE treasurer.

The Bid Corp will be packaging their ideas in a supplement to the Bid Book, due in January 2003, called the Sustainability Story.

The Olympic InfoZone audience, made up of AWARE members, local councillors, and Mayor Hugh O'Reilly among others, peppered Baker with questions and comments.

One specific question, which was raised during the course of the evening, was whether the bid was close to developing concrete ideas that people can grab hold of.

"It's a work in progress. It continues to change. It's a continually evolving process," Baker said to the roughly 20 people who came to the Whistler Mountain Ski Club Cabin May 22.

The bid has identified four main goals in the sustainability initiative:

• Environmental stewardship;

• Economic opportunity;

• A greater sense of social responsibility;

• Sport development and health promotion.

To date, the Bid Corp has done a high-level environmental assessment of all the Olympic venues. They found most have a relatively low environmental impact.

"The area that we are paying the most attention to is the Callaghan," said Baker, who said they would also be looking closely at Cypress Mountain.

From June through August the Bid Corp will be conducting a more thorough environmental study of the venues.

Baker pointed out that the Bid Corp has a compact venue plan, where most of the venue sites are close together.

All are on public transportation routes, which will be the main way to move spectators around. Event tickets will be sold in conjunction with public transportation tickets.

These initiatives, among many others, are part of the environmental portion of the sustainability package.

In addition to completing the environmental study over the summer months, the Bid Corp will also focus a study on the social ramifications of the Games to Vancouver's downtown eastside.

There is a concern that many people living on the streets in the downtown eastside may be displaced. The study will be done to see how to mitigate that concern.

Other social aspects in the sustainability story include having leading-edge access for people with disabilities.

And there will be free access to the nightly medal ceremonies in BC Place, so people can come together and share in the spirit of the Olympics.

Baker said the Olympics can be a powerful force uniting a country's people, as well as driving a country's economy. For example, a review of the promotional values of the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney is estimated at almost $2 billion. The Bid Corp wants to ensure Canada is ready to seize upon that opportunity.

Canadian industries must be "trade ready" in order to capitalize on the exposure from the Olympics. These aren't just B.C. companies but all Canadian companies.

The other major aspect to economic activity is tourism development.

"The world is looking at Vancouver," said Baker.

But the Bid Corp doesn't just want to focus on tourism to Vancouver and Whistler but to all of Canada over the long term.

In particular, their goal is to strengthen niche markets around sport tourism.

The final chapter in the Olympic sustainability story is the part that includes sport development and health promotion over the long run, with a focus on youth.

This will be done with the introduction of the SportFit program to elementary schools across the province.

The program, which is in part an interactive online system, will test young kids and expose them to sports that they may excel at or may enjoy.

Marion Lay, president of the 2010 LegaciesNow Society, is hoping the program will be in place by November.

SportFit will be a pilot program in B.C. and there is hope the federal government will get involved with money to move it across the country, she said.

The attending crowd were eager to ask questions and voice their concerns about the bid's sustainability initiatives.

There was some very encouraging rhetoric that came out of the meeting from those attending, said Zeidler.

He said it was wonderful to listen to the new common language of sustainability.

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