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Legacies society to get 40 per cent of GOT

Announcement of funds will help in development of business plans for Nordic and sliding centres

By Clare Ogilvie

The Whistler Legacies Society, which will operate two of Whistler’s Olympic venues, is eligible for millions of dollars annually from a fund set up to help cover operating costs after the 2010 Winter Games.

The money will flow from the $110 million Games Operating Trust (GOT) set up in November 2002 by the province and the federal government.

Each government contributed $55 million to the GOT to support three facilities, the Richmond Olympic skating oval, the $104.9 million Whistler Sliding Centre, and the $119.7 million Whistler Nordic Centre, after the 2010 Winter Games are over.

The GOT has grown to $133.6 million as of March 2007.

Generally it will be the interest on the original $110 million that will be dispersed annually to operate the facilities.

This morning Premiere Gordon Campbell announced how funds would be split, with 40 per cent of the funds going to support the Richmond Oval, 40 per cent going to the Whistler venues, and 20 per cent being kept as a contingency fund and a way to support athletes.

The GOT will be divided on Dec. 31, 2007.

“We are hopeful that this Games Operating Trust will provide support for the facilities not just leading up to the 2010 but well beyond 2010 so that they are giving to the next generation of athletes in the way we are trying to give to this generation of athletes,” said Campbell at the announcement, which was made at the speed-skating venue’s construction site in Richmond.

The Whistler Legacies Society (WLS) is now planning on producing business plans for the sliding centre and Nordic centre.

“This announcement gives us some financial security,” said WLS board member and Lil’wat representative Lyle Leo.

The WLS is composed of several partners including the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games, the provincial government the Squamish Nation, the Lil’wat Nation, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“The Games Operating Trust is one of the most crucial legacies for the 2010 Games to those of us in the Sea to Sky corridor,” said Leo.

“This enables us to move forward in developing a business model that will ensure financial stability of two key resources in the corridor which we will own and operate.

“The WLS is confident that the sliding centre and the Nordic centre will become main attractions in the province post-Games, offering excellent training for current and future athletes and first rate tourist amenities for visitors.”

For 14-year-old speed skater Michelle McKay of Mission the Richmond oval represents her dream.

“I have been skating for 10 years and it has been a goal of mine to go to the Olympics and I think it is a great opportunity to have the oval in Richmond because it inspires me to work that much harder to be able to skate in the Olympics,” she said.

For the City of Richmond, said Mayor Malcolm Brodie, the trust money means a world-class venue will not be a burden to taxpayers.

“The financial support provided by the trust ensure that we will be able to provide these meaningful legacies without basing an undue hardship or burden on the taxpayers of Richmond,” he said.

Richmond, which will own the oval after the Games, is contributing $114 million to the facility’s $178 million construction cost.

After the Games the oval will be converted to a running track, two hockey rinks, eight gyms, a rowing tank facility and the complex will have parking for 450 vehicles.

“This will probably be the most remarkable venue of its kind in the world largely because it has been built with the future in mind,” said John Furlong, VANOC CEO.

“The community thought far enough in advance to think this oval could not just be one of the all time great Olympic ovals but also make an enormous contribution to sport, winter and summer, long after the Games and also in the build up to the Games.”

Furlong told the crowd that setting up the legacy for the facilities was part of the out-of-the-box initial planning for the Games.

“I think (this is) one of the most novel and creative and innovative agreements any organizing committee has ever sat down to work on,” said Furlong.

“The Games Trust Fund (was) essentially to make sure that the venues of 2010 Games would live on and contribute to sport in the community, sport in the province, sport across the country, sport and around the world for generations… That is what this fund is set up to do.

“…. (This) means that every venue we have for the Games will contribute long after the flame goes out.”