Ever see Joan McIntyre in her pyjamas? It's not the most ministerial of sights, but there can come a time when the shedding of code and conduct is all part of the game. And so the local MLA and Minister of State for Intergovernmental Relations joined the underdressed ranks of VANOC's 2010 Winter Games Homestay Program for its launch last week at Squamish's Brew Pub.
The idea is simple enough. Though the International Olympic Committee generates billions in profits, VANOC does not. Organizers, therefore, rely on volunteers. And then still more volunteers to house those volunteers.
"It's an absolutely fabulous way to engage in the Games, and a great way to connect with them," said Maureen Douglas, VANOC director of communications.
There are 1,000 volunteers that have yet to be accommodated. While VANOC hasn't released budget figures regarding its own spending on accommodations, it is asking that homeowners in Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish open their doors and fridges to global volunteers for up to 20 nights. The plan has been in the making since day one, and VANOC will release its updated budget on Jan. 30.
And there are requirements. Those looking to take part in the program must have a private bedroom, provide a daily breakfast and assist with transportation. Access to laundry and kitchen facilities is also encouraged. A team leader will drop by the applicant's house to make sure things are up to snuff.
VANOC is encouraging applicants to check with their home insurance provider to ensure adequate coverage; to that end, a third party liability of $1 million is recommended.
In return, homeowners will be privy to ticket packages at Whistler Sliding Centre and Whistler Olympic Park. There are different packages for different commitments. At the top end, if someone houses a volunteer for 20 nights, that person becomes a gold level participant and gets access to 16 tickets. There will be a maximum of four tickets for any one event.
The tickets are not to be sold, but can be given away to family and friends. They're coming out of VANOC's own supply, not out of the public allotment. Details on the program are available at www.vancouver2010.com/homestay.
"What we need now is for you to help us do a job that will take the Games over the top," said Dan Doyle, VANOC liaison for Squamish.
Mira Leung, a Vancouver-born figure skater who competed in the 2006 Torino Olympics, took to the podium to praise the program. "Volunteering is not just how we run the events," she said. "It's how we get involved, even if we don't get to volunteer in the Games."
Liza Rogers also said a few words. She journeyed to Sydney, Australia, in 2000 to volunteer for those Olympics. "They were so happy to share their Olympic experience with me," she said.
"It's absolutely the best way to experience the Games," said McIntyre.
In other Olympic accommodations developments, the deadline extension for a request for proposals (RFP) to provide accommodation on cruise ships docked in Squamish appears to have borne some fruit.
"We've got a bunch of RFPs in," said Doyle. "We'll be evaluating them and seeing where we can go. We're pushing towards spring to get that lined up."