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Whistler Olympic venues see budget increases

Money comes from VANOC’s contingency fund



By Alison Taylor

The budgets for Whistler’s three Olympic competition venues have increased by millions of dollars again but won’t affect the overall construction budget for the 2010 Games.

In the last three months the price of the local venues has gone up more than $10 million collectively, as detailed in the quarterly report issued by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games on Thursday, March 15.

The money to pay for the budget increases is coming from VANOC’s multi-million dollar contingency fund and will not impact the overall venues budget of $580 million.

VANOC’s vice president of construction, Dan Doyle, said he is very confident the budgets for those Whistler venues won’t go up again as they gear up for another busy construction season.

“We’re feeling very comfortable that the money that we’ve allocated to those projects now will allow us to complete those projects,” said Doyle.

Completion of the Whistler venues is expected by the end of the year.

Though a handful of projects in Vancouver also saw small increases, it was the cost of the Whistler venues that climbed the highest from October until January.

The Whistler Sliding Centre, site of the bobsled, luge and skeleton events on Blackcomb Mountain, has increased the most at $5 million. The budget is now $104.9.

The Whistler Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley has jumped $4 million and the budget now sits at $119.7.

And the alpine venue at Creekside has increased $1.4 million to a total budget of $27.6 million.

Doyle gave two reasons why the budgets in Whistler have been impacted the most in the last quarter.

“The first is that the Whistler venues are the most advanced venues and the most construction has been done already on them,” Doyle explained. “And the second reason is when I looked at the cost inflation ratios between Vancouver and Whistler, in Whistler the cost inflation for construction was slightly higher than Vancouver.”

To deal with the budget overruns, VANOC pulled $11.5 million out of its central contingency fund. It was expected money would flow from this fund to make up budget shortfalls in certain venues.

“I’m pleased to report that VANOC has allocated less of the venue development contingency that we had forecasted,” said Doyle.

The contingency fund now sits at more than $55 million and VANOC hopes to have money leftover in that fund when the venues are complete. But there will be a continual allocation of contingency funds to the venues in the months to come.

The quarterly report includes the financial statements for the period ending Jan. 31, 2007. It is part of a series of reports regularly released by VANOC since June 2006.

“We made a fairly bold prediction back in Prague (in 2003 when Vancouver was awarded the Games) that we would be getting these venues done early,” said CEO John Furlong. “It’s going extremely well.”

An early finish, as scheduled, will allow Canadian athletes to get on the courses as soon as possible, which is critical to giving them a home-field advantage.

“Our venue program is also on time to offer two full training seasons to our Canadian athletes in 13 of the 15 sport disciplines by the end of this year,” added Furlong.

The sliding centre is scheduled for completion by the end of 2007. Likewise, the Nordic venue will be competition and practice ready by the end of year too. The day lodge in that area will go up in the 2008 construction season.

Roughly $52 million has been spent to date building each venue.

In general terms, Furlong said 2007 would be a critical year to develop the ticketing and volunteer plans. The much-anticipated business plan is in the final stages of review and approval by the government partners. It has a balanced budget.

This year VANOC will also work to finalize the sports schedule, a key part of the puzzle.

Furlong said: “The schedule is critical to the Games because it derives all of our operations, all of our transportation plans, our ticketing plans, our broadcast plans etc., everything is based on when the events themselves are scheduled.”