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Whistler wants world neighbourhood for 2010 Games

RMOW releases invitation to build nation houses in village

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More than $2 million has been earmarked in the 2008 municipal budget for site servicing the new Neighbourhood of Nations for the 2010 Games.

The line item was listed as part of the capital projects the municipality will be working on in 2008, according to charts displayed at the community budget meeting held on Jan. 29.

The project, if it’s successful, is a unique concept that would see different countries build houses to showcase their art, culture and heritage while networking with other nations during the Olympics.

In December the municipality issued an official Expression of Interest to nations participating in the Games to gauge the interest in the idea.

“Right now I would say we’re testing the waters to see if there’s enough interest for us to pursue this a heck of a lot further,” said Keith Bennett, the municipality’s general manager of resort experience.

“It’s one of those things where it’s a really neat idea, but unless there’s uptake, it was just a neat idea. So right now we’re working to try to get some uptake on that.”

The idea was first sparked after inquiries from the Austrian Olympic Committee and The Austrian Passive House Group, which is dedicated to building energy efficient homes. They were looking for a place in Whistler to showcase their technology during the Games.

“We were very intrigued about it for a whole bunch of reasons, as you can imagine,” said Bennett.

Discussions were taken a step further to see if there was the possibility of building an international village where other countries could showcase their technology and culture.

This could also potentially keep valuable restaurant space in the village empty for official Olympic sponsors.

Through various Olympic committees and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, countries are now considering the concept. They have until the end of February to submit their expression of interest.

Though $2.1 million has been earmarked in the most recent municipal budget figures, Bennett explained that the bulk of that money, roughly $1.9 million, should be recouped from the participating nations.

“On one end of the scale we would love to recoup those costs, on the other end of the scale it may turn out that nobody’s interested in doing that and we may have to make a decision with council as to whether it’s worth that investment of $2 million in exchange for acquiring significantly greater value in buildings,” said Bennett, who explained that council has only approved spending roughly $200,000 to date.

The Neighbourhood of Nations would be located in between Lots 3 and 4 in the day skier parking lots, home of the former impound lot.

It is billed as a place for broadcasting, a venue for expositions and the place to celebrate a nation’s Olympic and Paralympic participation.

The municipality would be responsible for providing sewer, water and electricity to the site.

It is envisioned the 2.5-acre site would see a cluster of homes, ranging in size from 300 square metres (or 3,200 square feet) to 1,200 square metres (almost 13,000 square feet). It would be centred around a neighbourhood commons with a stage which would act as a gathering spot for the nations.

Post Games the homes would stay in Whistler as a legacy to the community.

Long-term the Neighbourhood of Nations site could turn into a municipal park or amphitheatre.

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