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
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
“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.