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VANOC reaches milestone in Whistler

Completing Olympic venues ‘on time, on budget’ a major accomplishment



Olympic officials will reach a major milestone tomorrow with the completion of the competition venues for the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler.

“…For Whistler the Olympic era has formally started,” said John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games.

“…It is almost a bit surreal that here we are… three winters away from the start of the Games and all the venues in Whistler are done.

“We have worked so hard and everybody has been so determined to meet the deadlines that we have forgotten for a second that Whistler is in the unique position of being the first mountain resort in Olympic history of having its venues absolutely finished (this early).”

The $105 million Sliding Centre, home to one of the fastest bobsleigh, luge and skeleton tracks in the world, is into its commissioning phase with all of the ice, which is sprayed on millimetre by millimetre, set to be in place in January. Sliders will be able to reach speeds of 140 km/h.

Skiers are already enjoying the men’s and women’s Olympic downhill courses on Whistler Mountain at Creekside. The runs received a $27.6 million upgrade.

And this weekend will see the $120 million Olympic Nordic Venue in the Callaghan Valley open to the public for cross-country skiing. It will also host its first competition on Saturday.

A public celebration of the completion of the Whistler venues will take place Friday at the Westin Whistler Resort and Spa, from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

All of the venues have gone through changes since they were proposed during the bid phase of the 2010 Games. And all of them have substantially higher price tags — the Sliding Centre is more than double its original cost of $55 million.

At the root of cost escalation, said VANOC, were rising construction costs and an International Olympic Committee rule that bids must be made in the dollar of the day — 2002 dollars.

In 2006 VANOC released its updated venue budget figures and since then it has become famous for its “on time, on budget” line trotted out at almost every event.

“If I had copyrighted that I would be rich,” joked Dan Doyle, VANOC’s executive vice-president of construction.

He is convinced that one of the main reasons VANOC has been able to keep its budget promises is the commitment of the companies hired to do the construction work.

“It shows up in the quality and it shows up in the extra effort and it also shows up in the lack of contractual bickering that goes on,” said Doyle, who has 37 years experience in public sector construction and project management.