Whistler affordability tackled by IPC, VANOC 

Organizers of Paralympics pleased with preparations for 2010

Organizers of the 2010 Paralympics are close to finding a solution that would make Whistler affordable to Games sponsors, officials, and spectators.

The high cost of Whistler accommodation was discussed several times last week during the third official Project Review between the International Parlaympic Committee (IPC) and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC).

“…At the end we came to a solution and VANOC offered really good plans for that and we are close to coming to a consensus on how we will approach that,” said Steffi Klein, IPC media and communications senior manager.

There has been concern voiced for several months that IPC stakeholders, officials, spectators and VIPs would have to stay in Vancouver, where accommodation prices are much lower, rather than in Whistler.

The Paralympics, which run from March 12 to 21, 2010 cover the busy spring break period — usually one of the busiest periods of the year, when hotel rates are at a premium.

“The main thing is that prices are really high in Whistler… but VANOC has approached lots of hotels and they are very happy to talk to them and come up with reasonable process and very good packages that our clients and stakeholders can get,” said Klein.

During the meetings it became clear that the Paralympic clients would be staying for different lengths of time and could stay in different types of accommodations, said VANOC’s director of Paralympic Games Dena Coward.

“We are not just going back and looking at some different hotel solutions as opposed to everyone staying in one hotel. They might be spread out, so that gives them more options,” she said.

“They are just working the numbers right now so hopefully we will have this resolved very shortly.”

The Parlaympic clients include the IPC family, which has some royalty on its honorary governing board, the national Parlaympic Committees, sponsors and others.

“We don’t have to put everybody into a four star hotel. We can take some of those clients and put them into three star hotels so (cost) becomes less of a problem,” said Coward.

Athletes and officials will be staying at the Whistler Athletes’ Village.

IPC officials visited Whistler on Saturday and toured the venues and the village.

“(The) venues will provide excellent opportunities for Paralympic athletes,” said Klein.

All the Paralympic events will be held in Whistler except the opening ceremonies, which will be held at B.C. Place Stadium, and the sledge hockey and wheelchair curling, both of which will be held in Vancouver.

The Paralympic medals ceremonies will be held in a celebration plaza in Whistler. At previous Paralympics the medals were awarded at the venue at the end of each event.

Meetings were also held to discuss the ceremonies, budget, media operations, broadcasting, transport, ticketing, accessibility and venues.

Klein said the Project Review group was pleased with accessibility in general in Vancouver and Whistler, though getting enough accessible accommodation is always a challenge.

“Accessibility is always an issue,” she said. “But Canada is far (ahead) in that regard. I think, when you look at Europe or compare to Beijing, accessibility here is on a different level. However, there is always something to make better and our accessibility experts will be addressing that with VANOC and they are working closely with them to make sure that in 2010 everything is accessible so people can go wherever they want to go and see whatever they want to see.”

The IPC has been working for some time to ensure that the transition from the Olympic Games to the Paralympic Games does not lose its pageantry. Klein said both the IPC and VANOC were working on this and discussions were held on the topic during the visit.

“There are definitely elements that can survive both Games, and I think (VANOC) has good planning on how to make sure that spectators and athletes and VIPs coming in don’t experience a (harsh) transition period,” she said.

The torch relay was also discussed.

The 2008 Paralympic torch will visit Whistler and Vancouver this August. Klein said the IPC was happy with plans in place and security measures so far.

“We know that there are people who will use events like that to make their points about something else but we don’t think it will be like the Olympic torch relay,” she said.

“In the Parlaympic Games we try to push the human rights of people who have a disability and that is something different, so we think the torch relay will be good.”

The 2010 torch relay will travel across Canada.

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