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Olympics or Kandahar?

News from VANOC

The federal government, this week, dismissed concerns that there are not enough troops to fulfill Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan and security for the 2010 Winter Games.

The discussion in the house came after Reuters news agency revealed a Feb. 5, 2006 briefing note which said Olympic security would be a high priority activity causing significant impact on domestic operation.

Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor pointed to the fact that there are some 50,000 army, air force and navy troops available in the country — quite enough to carry out both commitments.

The defence minister also denied, in an article in Le Devoir, that there was any link between commitments for the Games and the exit date for Afghanistan, 2009.

Security at the Games is currently budgeted to cost $175 million and will be provided through a number of agencies, with the RCMP co-coordinating the integrated security group.

B.C.-Canada House taking shape for 2008 Beijing Games

B.C. has signed a deal with Chinese officials to erect a 20,000 square foot pavilion to celebrate the province, Canada, and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler during the 2008 Summer Games.

“B.C.-Canada Place was a major hit with the crowds at the 2006 Torino Winter Games, with more than 100,000 visitors lining up to learn about our province and our country,” said Premier Gordon Campbell.

“Our presence in Beijing during the 2008 Games will promote the diversity of B.C. and Canadian business, art, culture and sport to the world.”

The pavilion will be housed at the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall at the city centre near the Forbidden City and the Great Hall of the People. It is also behind Tiananmen Square, which will host a massive party every night of the Summer Games. It is expected that hundreds of thousands of people will attend the area every night.

The $6 million pavilion’s external element was created by B.C. architect Bing Thom. The entrance will feature 13 curves made of wood and under them will sit a silicone based skating rink so visitors will be able to see skating even in the heat of a Beijing summer. Each curve will be decorated to represent a province or territory.

VANOC board’s term extended to 2010

The directors of the board for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games extended their three year term to four years recently so that their tenures will carry them through the Vancouver and Whistler event.

Without taking that unusual step the board’s term would have expired in November 2009. The move means this will be the last board unless individual members step down.

Jack Poole was also reappointed as chair of the board at the Nov. 15 annual general meeting, which was closed to the public.

Nineteen others were also confirmed as appointed. They represent the Canadian Olympic Committee (7), the Government of Canada (3), the Province of B.C. (3), the City of Vancouver (2), the Resort Municipality of Whistler (2) the Canadian Paralympic Committee (1), and a joint appointment by the Band Councils of the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations (1).

This was also the first meeting attended by the three new federal appointees, Peter Brown of Vancouver, Jacques Gauthier of Montreal and Carol Stephenson of Ontario.

The board was briefed on the draft business plan, but it did not adopt it. Previously VANOC said the business plan will be released publicly in the New Year.

Ontario bureaucrat hired by VANOC

A longtime Ontario bureaucrat, David Guscott, will take over responsibility for building intergovernmental relations for the Vancouver organizing committee for the 2010 Games.

Guscott has served as deputy minister of labour and deputy minister of transportation in Ontario. Before accepting the position with VANOC he was deputy minister of communications and special projects and associate secretary of cabinet with the Cabinet Office.

“(Guscott’s) depth of expertise is wide-ranging and includes strategic planning and management, fiscal management and government relations,” said John Furlong, VANOC’s CEO.

“He’ll be a valuable addition as we work to nurture the strong relationships we have established with our partners — relationships that are vital to the success of any Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Guscott will officially join VANOC on Dec.15.

VANOC opens first venue at Cypress

2010 Olympic officials officially opened the venue for the freestyle competition on Cypress Mountain last week.

It is the first Games venue to be competition ready, though athletes won’t use it this season.

“Early completion of our competition sites is a cornerstone of the Vancouver 2010 venue development program,” said VANOC CEO John Furlong.

“The sooner our venues are ready the sooner out athletes will have access to the sites to enhance their chances of podium success in 2010.”

Cypress Mountain will serve as the venue for four freestyle skiing events — men’s and women’s aerials and moguls — and six snowboard events: men’s and women’s parallel giant slalom, half pipe and snowboard cross (provisional).

To date VANOC has spent $4 million of the $14.6 million budget for the freestyle and snowboard site. The work on the snowboard halfpipe will start next year.

The freestyle course still needs lighting, a judge’s stand, and a small chairlift, all of which will be completed next year.

The first competition will be a World Cup freestyle event more than a year from now.

Vancouver venue update

Work on the Richmond speed skating oval officially got underway last week and Olympic organizers announced that Canadian athletes could be skating on new ice sheets at the UBC venue within months.

The $178 million skating oval will hold a 400 metre track and seating for about 8,000 spectators. It is expected to be home to at least 12 medal events.

The cost of the venue is being shared between VANOC — which received $60 million from the federal and provincial governments — and the City of Richmond.

“The Richmond Oval will be a world class facility and the premier legacy of the 2010 Winter Games,” said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

“We can’t wait to see Canada’s next Olympic champions step to the top of the podium in the Richmond Oval and listen to O Canada while our flag flies high.”

The oval, which is being partially constructed using beetle-killed wood, is a few weeks behind schedule but it is expected to be finished on time and open in the fall of 2008. After the Games it will be used as a sports centre and include hockey rinks and a running track.

The $47.8 million UBC hockey venue, which includes two new rinks and renovations to an existing facility, is also on time and on budget. It is being paid for by VANOC, which is contributing $37.6 million, the university, which is providing $9 million, and Rona an Olympic sponsor, which is helping with construction supplies.