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VANOC board agrees to additional $25 million for athletes’

Up to 800 athletes and team officials will be housed in camp-style trailers



Top 2010 Olympic officials have agreed to dip into their contingency fund and spend an extra $25 million on the athletes’ centre and temporary accommodation in the Whistler athletes’ village.

Part of the money will be used to cover the costs of camp-style temporary accommodation for the extra 800 athletes and team officials the International Olympic Committee asked VANOC to accommodate earlier this year.

“That is probably the biggest change that has occurred anywhere in our project from the time we had our project approved by the two senior levels of government to our final plan,” said Dave Cobb, VANOC's executive vice-president of revenue, marketing and communications.

“From that time we have been working on what the solution would be.”

The decision was voted on by the board of directors of the Vancouver Organizing Committee Wednesday during a board meeting in Whistler.

“We fully anticipated that there would be draws on the contingency and designed our process so that each project could draw on it rather than having it built into the budget from the beginning,” said acting board chair Rusty Goepel.

In addition to providing accommodation for another 800 athletes and team officials, the extra money is needed to cover escalating costs associated with the athletes’ centre legacy. It’s hoped that the centre, which will offer athletic facilities as well as affordable accommodation, will draw athletes to train in Whistler in the years following the Games.

Another $1.5 million will also come out of the contingency to pay for costs associated with the Cypress Mountain venue, the Richmond speed skating oval and B.C. Place Stadium.

Executive Vice president Dan Doyle explained that the money was for electrical and safety issues on Cypress, dressing rooms at the Richmond oval and accessibility and washroom upgrades at B.C. Place.

Goepel said the VANOC board was not concerned about using the contingency, which now stands at $26.8 million, down from $139 million.

“…That is why the contingency is there,” said Goepel.

“There is absolutely nothing there of a major nature to concern us at all.”

But NDP Olympic critic Harry Bains believes the public should be very concerned about VANOC’s decision to keep dipping into the contingency fund.

“It seems to me that they have made the decision that the contingency fund will be all used up without any justification,” he said.

“For them to say that the contingency fund is part of the overall budget I think that is concerning.

“The contingency fund is for unforeseen and unpredictable events.”

All the Whistler competition venues will be finished this fall and test events will begin in 2008.

VANOC chairman Jack Poole listened in to some of the board meeting by phone from a Seattle treatment centre where he is recovering from pancreatic surgery. Both Goepel and Furlong said they expect Poole to return to his position.

The board also announced that the team behind the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies would be revealed today (Sept. 20) in Vancouver.