Feds, province promise $620 million for 2010 Games facilities 

Announcement expected today

The announcement expected today (June 7) from the federal and B.C. governments that $620 million will be made available for the must-have Winter Olympic Games facilities is good news said Whistler’s mayor.

"It is great," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

"The whole process of moving toward the bid is getting into shape. This is an integral part.

"We don’t have the capacity to fund the facility development so that is one of the pieces that had to fall into place. It is one more piece of our puzzle as we get closer to putting the final bid book together."

The announcement shows there is strong backing from the government to host the Winter Olympics in Whistler and Vancouver in 2010.

That message is an important one to get out for proponents of the Games.

O’Reilly believes the Vancouver bid is a "strong contender" for the 2010 Games.

"It is still a tough competition," he said.

"Central Europe is going to put in a formidable bid but at the same time we think we have equal assets to put on the table and we are hopeful that Whistler and Vancouver can shine when the day comes."

The International Olympic Committee will decide this August which cities will be shortlisted for the Games.

The final decision on who will host the Games will be made in July 2003.

The money, equally contributed by B.C. and Ottawa, will be used for facility development, renovations and upgrades.

"This money doesn’t get spent unless you win," said Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation spokesman Sam Corea.

The $620 million includes money for endowments to run facilities after the Games. The aim is to prevent the activity centres from being a drain on the local government and communities.

The facilities which will most likely benefit from the endowments are the Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley, the speed skating oval in Burnaby and the bob and luge track currently planned for Blackcomb.

None of the money will be used to upgrade the Sea to Sky Highway, build a new Vancouver convention centre, or expand rapid transit between Vancouver and Richmond.

"It’s exciting news for us," said Corea.

"The IOC will read what is in the questionnaire about our existing facilities and planned infrastructure and then they will hear that the federal and provincial government are backing it up with these announcements," and that looks good for us he said.

The Ministry of Canadian Heritage also announced earlier in the week the appointment of two special ambassadors to support Canada’s bid to host the Games.

Raymond Chan, the former B.C. Liberal MP and junior minister responsible for Asia-Pacific affairs, and Jacques Roy, a retired career diplomat will provide advice to the bid on international affairs and protocol.

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