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Temporary world begins to take shape in Whistler

Athletes’ village, venues will see half a million square feet of tenting in place for Games

Imagine building a small city beside, in, and around Whistler for thousands of visitors and residents.

You would need tents, power, toilets, seating, storage, lighting and more.

Getting those items in place is exactly what Olympic and Paralympic organizers are busy doing right now.

In Whistler alone more than half a million square feet of tenting is needed, along with 410 trailers, 210 containers for storage and waxing huts, 45 kilometres of fencing, 22,000 bleacher seats, 50 media commentator cabins and hundreds of portable toilets.

"I know this is a bit of a mysterious world for people," said Guy Lodge, who is in charge of making this temporary world come alive for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games.

"When people ask me to describe what overlay is I often say if you take a venue turn it upside down and shake it everything that falls out belongs to me.

"We live in the temporary world."

Already the massive dinning tent and logistics tents are in place at the Whistler Athletes' Village.

Overlay is also going in at the timing flats at Creekside, site of the alpine events, and trailers and tents are going up to Whistler Olympic Park, the Nordic venue in the Callaghan valley.

Lodge hopes to have all overlay in place by Jan. 15, but for Whistler work is already under way to beat the snow.

The plans for overlay have been in the works for over two years. Now with final venue plans in place the overlay team can place the tents, finalize how cables will run, mark-off where all 1,600 of the portable biffys will go, organize all heating, power and lighting needs, and get ready for the Games.

Some venues require more overlay than others. For example, said Lodge, the Richmond Skating Oval is designed for its legacy use and therefore cannot support the number of people or their needs at Games time.

So the overlay team will be constructing a spectator corridor outside the venue to house food and beverage, merchandizing, and toilet facilities.

"...We have over 6,000 temporary seats going in there," said Lodge.

"...We have to build a spectator corridor, which will be on the river side that will house the food and beverage, merchandise, temporary washrooms, and the land to the west of that will be completely full with logistics, broadcast operations (and so on).

"So we have almost as a big a foot print externally as we do internally."

The University of British Columbia ice arena will also see significant overlay on the playing fields around it, as will the curling venue in Vancouver.

In all one million square feet of tenting will be needed, along with over 650 trailers. There will also be hundreds of thousands of metres of cable used for power.

The materials needed are sourced locally, nationally and internationally.

From Lodge's standpoint making this all temporary is the right thing to do.

"If you think about it is a smart way to do it because for the long term use as legacy facilities (venues) are right-sized," he said.

"If you over build them then they are never right sized and other cities have done that before us and they have had that stigma attached to them afterward."

Much of the material is also recycled or re-used by other mega events.

It will take about three months to dismantle all the temporary overlay once the Paralympic Games are over in March.

But, said Lodge, some sites such as the parking lots for Whistler Blackcomb and GM Place will be deconstructed as fast as possible as they are associated with financial ventures.

Success, said Lodge, is leaving the sites as they were found.

"Our goal at the end of the day is to leave with no footprint, like we were never there, and if we do that then we have done our job well," he said.