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NOTE: WE HAVE MUG SHOT OF PETER WEBB IF NEEDED Whistler left off World Cup schedule Nor-Am races likely to become annual spring event There won’t be any World Cup downhill races in the foreseeable future for Whistler. Whistler’s bid to host a men’s World Cup downhill and super G in 2002, just before the Salt Lake City Olympics, has been rejected by the FIS committee in charge of scheduling. The committee met in Switzerland earlier this month. "The reasons have to do with scheduling. The slot just before the Olympics is committed to St. Moritz for test events," said Peter Webb, president of the W5 Foundation. St. Moritz will host the World Alpine Ski Championships in 2003. World Cup events are required to be held on Olympic and world championship courses the year prior to the Olympics or world championships. What the FIS rejection means for Whistler’s bid for the 2010 Olympics is unclear. The W5 had been focusing on hosting a series of high-profile events prior to the International Olympic Committee’s awarding of the 2010 Games in 2003. Whistler regularly hosts World Cup snowboard and freestyle events and will host the 2001 freestyle world championships. Whistler has also bid to host the 2003 FIS snowboard world championships. "There are two schools of thought on that," Webb said when asked about the FIS rejection affecting Whistler’s Olympic bid. "Nagano, Japan didn’t even have a downhill course when they were awarded the 1998 Winter Olympics. So I don’t think that’s at all clear. "I’m sorry we didn’t get the World Cup, but it’s not a disaster." Other options which could be considered include hosting the World Cup finals, an annual competition in March which includes men’s and women’s slalom, giant slalom, super G and downhill events but only the top 20 World Cup competitors in each discipline are invited. Webb said the W5 board decided last week not to seek the World Cup finals, at least at this time. "We’ll probably wait a year or so to see how things develop with alpine skiing, the Olympic bid and so on," said Webb. "It’s not yes, it’s not no." Ski races that Whistler will host, likely on an annual basis starting in March, are men’s and women’s Nor-Am speed events. The Vancouver Ski Foundation, one of the members of the W5 group, is actually organizing the Nor-Am races, but the W5 is supporting the effort. "The Nor-Ams we think are a very good second strategy," Webb said. "They’re not as high-profile as the World Cup but they are a much easier event to put on in terms of cost and scheduling." The W5 group had been led to believe the FIS would look favourably on Whistler hosting World Cup events in February of 2002. "It was a surprise to me," Webb said. "My information was that time slot was open." Whistler was not directly represented at the FIS meeting. The FIS deals with national ski federations, rather than individual resorts, when it is scheduling World Cup events. Alpine Canada represented Whistler at the meeting. Webb said it appears the FIS doesn’t like to deviate from scheduling North American World Cup ski events early in the season, unless it’s for an Olympics or world championships. The W5 group was formed four years ago when Whistler was awarded an annual early-season date on the World Cup downhill schedule. Three successive years of race cancellations led to this year’s race being moved to Lake Louise. Meanwhile, Webb said discussions with the Hongkong Bank of Canada regarding repayment of its $3 million loan to the W5 group are continuing. The Hongkong Bank of Canada provided the loan for snowmaking when Whistler was awarded the early-season World Cup dates. The W5 has asked to re-negotiate terms of the interest-free loan but the bank wants to continue with the original deal. The loan was to be re-paid at a rate of $300,000 per year. The W5 has made partial payments but has asked that some of the debt be paid off in the form of naming rights or some other type of "contra." The Resort Municipality of Whistler guaranteed the first five years, Whistler-Blackcomb guaranteed years six through eight, and one-third of year nine, while the WRA guaranteed two-thirds of year nine and all of year 10.