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Whistler yet to declare official support for Olympic bid

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The 2010 Winter Olympic bid is being buoyed by the support of the provincial government, private corporations and tourism associations.

But one key player is still missing – the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

The municipality did, however, adopt a set of guiding principles for Whistler’s involvement in the international bid last month.

According to RMOW documents, the bid team must involve Whistler in the planning and budgeting process, and respect the Official Community Plan, including limits to development and the environmental and transportation strategies.

Whistler council met with the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Corp. last week – the third time since last December – as part of ongoing discussions about the municipality’s involvement.

"We’ve been meeting regularly to consult with each other," said Bid Corp. spokesman Sam Corea.

According to Corea, nothing in particular was discussed but transportation likely was a hot topic.

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Highways recently released a major study on the Sea-to-Sky region.

Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly told Pique Newsmagazine last week that he would prefer to see a multi-modal solution to solve the corridor’s problems.

The study estimated the cost of a multi-modal approach to be somewhere in the $1-billion range.

Meanwhile, the RMOW has been conducting surveys to measure local interest in the bid, but has not indicated when it will officially say yeah or nay to the bid.

"Council did support the domestic bid and is very interested in gauging public opinion," said RMOW information officer Diana Waltmann.

Waltmann would not comment on whether or not a referendum would be held to decide the bid’s fate.

"There was some talk about that during the last (municipal) election," she said.

The next municipal election will be held in November 2002, eight months before the International Olympic Committee is scheduled to award the 2010 Games.

Waltmann would also not comment on what a negative referendum vote would mean for the bid’s future.

The Bid Corp. has raised 70 per cent – more than $16-million – of its $23-million fund-raising goal, mostly from corporate sponsors.

The bid’s major supporter is Telus Corp., which was ranked in last month’s BC Business magazine as the most profitable company in the province, based on its net income of $461-million.

Crown corporations – ICBC, B.C. Lottery Corp. and B.C. Hydro – and other high-profile companies, such as BC Gas, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment, are also backing the bid.

Tourism B.C., Tourism Vancouver and the Vancouver International Airport are involved as well.

Tourism Whistler, like the RMOW, has yet to declare its official support for the bid. Whistler-Blackcomb owner Intrawest has given its verbal support to the bid.

According to the Bid Corp., these companies help finance the bid through cash donations or services in-kind.

About two-thirds of the funding for the bid comes from the corporate sector, while the remainder will be provided by government.

A 1998 study estimated that a Vancouver-Whistler Olympic Games could generate between $1.2-billion to $1.5-billion in revenues from sponsorships, television revenues, merchandise and ticket sales.

According to the Bid Corp., these revenues would cover the Games’ operating costs and would also include funds for sports development and new facilities such as a Nordic centre in the Callaghan valley near Whistler.

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