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Torino offers Olympic lessons for Whistler, Vancouver

Italian venues excellent, athletes villages blah



2010 Olympic officials will be taking a second look at their transportation plans, at security arrangements, and how to pack venues with spectators following their observations of the 2006 Games in Italy this month.

And they will be working to match or exceed the quality of sporting venues enjoyed by athletes, and the passion and engaging nature of the people of Turin who embraced the event with gusto.

Vancouver Organizing Committee vice president of sports Cathy Priestner-Allinger has just returned from a fact-finding mission to the 2006 Games.

"The part for me that was absolutely outstanding were the venues," she said.

"They were spectacular and the feedback from the athletes on the facilities was very, very positive."

Priestner-Allinger said VANOC is committed to making sure the 2010 venues are excellent even in the face of rising construction costs and a plea from the organization for another $110 million from government to offset venue costs.

"If we do have to make tough decisions, whether it is dealing with the venues themselves, or construction, or the villages, or food and beverage, or transportation, the athletes won’t be compromised in those decisions," she said.

While the athletes raved about the venues, response to the athletes

villages has been flat. Priestner-Allinger said VANOC hopes to make its villages more cozy with comfortable beds, down comforters, unique welcoming touches, and good food.

The Turin Games also faced several challenges that Whistler, the alpine venue, will experience as well.

"They have had snow (storms), they have had to delay events, they have had to postpone and re-schedule events and we are going to have to do all of that too," said Priestner-Allinger, who worked for the Turin organizing committee several years ago.

The key to surmounting the challenges, said Priestner-Allinger, will be getting resources in place to deal with them in 24 hours or less.

"What I learned from Torino is that we need to have the capacity to respond quickly to such things because the Games are only a couple of weeks and you can’t take three or four days to fix a major problem," she said.

That will mean running simulations of every possible problem that could arise so that a plan is in place to deal with it.

Priestner-Allinger, while impressed with security at the 2006 Games, also questions whether Vancouver and Whistler will need such a high profile plan.

"There was really strong visibility of security there and I’m not sure that is something we would want and we will have to figure out how we work with that," she said.