Athletes ‘will likely get their medals at the venue’ 

VANOC in discussions with community about overall celebration program

Olympic officials have all but confirmed that there will be no Olympic medals handed out at Whistler's Celebration Plaza.
"...We will probably not (award medals) but we are in discussions with the community about the overall program of celebration and what we are doing there," said John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games following a board meeting this week.
"Until we finish those it is difficult for us to say exactly what the program will be."
Furlong said VANOC was committed to keeping the animation associated with the Celebration Plaza site and confirmed that there will be athlete participation.
Terry Wright, VANOC's executive vice president of services and operations, confirmed that the medals will likely be handed out at the venues.
"(The Athletes) will likely get their medals at the venue... we still have to go through a few things to finalize that," said Wright.
"We are working so that for all intents and purposes it will be invisible as to what changes take place at that Celebration Plaza. "We still see it as the Olympic celebration venue.
"We can get 90 to 95 per cent of the benefit for significantly less investment."
One of of the main reasons for the change is that it will save VANOC millions in overlay costs. If medals are to be handed out at Celebration Plaza a doping facility must be on site and also cabling for broadcasters must have higher levels of redundancy built in, making it much more expensive.
VANOC did not release their revised budget Wednesday but the board did pass it.
The budget is balanced, said Furlong, and it remains in the ballpark of the $1.63 billion that has long been touted as the operations budget. Money has been reallocated within the budget so that must-have items are secure. Some items, such as transportation, which will see 10,500 buses used, may go up.
VANOC has been creative in places to cut, looking at changing the way they communicate through large printed documents. Now the organization is asking if they must print them at all and if they must can they use plain black and white as opposed to full colour.
"We are challenging that, looking to do it on line, can we get right down to using black and white versus colour and glossy paper," said Dave Cobb, VANOC's executive vice president of  marketing.
"That adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars and those are the things we are looking at. Just because they were done a certain way in the past we are not accepting that.
"You will see a logical shift into areas that are core to the delivery of the Games."
About 100 fewer staff will also be hired in the next year as part of the cost saving measures.
The board also heard that the contingency fund for venues now stands at $11.62 million.
Meanwhile, machines continue to prepare the land where Celebration Plaza is being built. January has seen significant activity, despite the cold weather and snow-laden ground.
According to Martin Pardoe, manager of resort open space planning, the municipality recently found out that the site needs more prep to get it ready for VANOC in September 2009.
He said the ground needs more "preload" - gravel used to compress the soil and stablize the foundations.
"(Our geotechnical engineer) has indicated that there is a need to put additional preload on there in order to meet the construction schedule," said Pardoe.
He added that the municipality is paying "good costs" for the extra work because January is typically a slow month for contractors. And the additional preload will not raise the $13.6 million construction cost.


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