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VANOC closer to finalizing workforce accommodation

More Homestays still needed, cruise ship will house 1,000 in Squamish



More than 6,000 Olympic workers will be living in Squamish and Whistler leading up to and over the 2010 Games.

Olympic organizers have now confirmed accommodation for them, with 2,000 staying in Squamish. Of those, over 1,000 will be housed on a cruise ship tied up at a berth at Squamish terminals.

The MV Mona Lisa will arrive Jan. 26 from Greece.

"It has been tested in a variety of similar environments," said Jacqui Murdoch, vice president of services and accommodation for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee.

While Murdoch would not confirm the identity of the ship she did say it had been used at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. The Mona Lisa was in Doha.

The cruise ship is owned by Leonardo Shipping and operated under charter by Lord Nelson Seereisen. She was built in 1966 by the John Brown & Company shipyard in Clydebank , Scotland as the combined ocean liner -cruise ship MS Kungsholm for the Swedish American Line . She was later rebuilt as a full-time cruise ship.

The ship currently has eight passenger decks, four passenger elevators, two outdoor and one indoor swimming pool, a sauna and a massage parlor. She has three restaurants, four lounges, four indoor bars, one outdoor bar and a 300-passenger capacity theater. There is also a full-service fitness centre, hair salon and a hospital.

Murdoch said the dining facility will be in use along with some but not all of the recreation facilities.

"...We haven't staffed for that and that is how we have been able to maintain costs," she said. The ship comes with a crew of 300 that perform the operational functions of the ship.

Another 500 Olympic workers and volunteers will stay at Quest University starting in early January and 300 will stay at Squamish hotels.

Murdoch hopes the workforce and volunteers in the Squamish area will bring increased business for local companies.

"This is an enormous economic generator," she said.

"We are putting in in excess of 2,000 people for the larger part of six weeks and they will be looking for opportunities to really engage with the community in celebrating the Olympics and Paralympics.

"...We are hoping that the restaurants and all the local businesses that have a service orientation will really benefit from the fact that we have so many people permanently staying there."

The workers will get to work at the Whistler venues by dedicated shuttle. The transportation plan for them is in the final stages.