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VANOC plan to house media may be sunk

IOC Press Commission rejects idea of using Squamish cruise ship

The International Olympic Press Commission has said a plan by Vancouver 2010 Games officials to house some media on a cruise ship in Squamish just won’t float.

But the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games said it still plans to investigate it and has already initiated discussions with luxury cruise ship liners.

“Cruise ship accommodation in Squamish is a creative and sustainable accommodation option,” said Terry Wright, VANOC’s executive president of service operations and ceremonies.

“Squamish is the midpoint of the Olympic and Paralympic theatre and this unique accommodation option would create a hub of activity in Squamish linking the city venues in Vancouver with the mountain venues in Whistler.”

The idea is being pursued not just to accommodate the media but perhaps other user groups such as international sport federations, and various team coaches and support personnel.

The idea to house the media on the ships was put forward by VANOC officials in Beijing at a world press-briefing event.

But according to Around the Rings, a media outfit that specializes in Olympic-related news, the idea was rejected because Squamish was too far away from Whistler.

Even with the Sea To Sky Highway upgrades it is expected to take about 30 minutes to drive from Squamish to Whistler in 2010.

VANOC decided to pursue the luxury cruise ship idea after the Whistler Athletes’ Village was moved to the proposed location for the media village. It’s expected that Whistler will be packed for the Games so finding up to 1,600 beds for media and broadcasters is a challenge.

“…There are not too many options to accommodate 1,600 people without tapping into the environment,” said Nejat Sarp VP of Villages and Accommodation for VANOC.

The IOC Press Commission is to visit in early November and Sarp hopes to continue discussions around the idea.

“We still need to hear what (the Press Commission’s) concerns were and then respectfully see how we can address those concerns and see if we can come up with an option that everyone is happy with.”

Sarp would not reveal what other options are being looked at as far as housing media and broadcasters covering the Games in Whistler.

“Whistler is already having challenges,” he said referring to VANOC’s need to address higher than expected numbers of visitors, both spectators and Olympic officials, in light of the information coming out of the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics.

Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland confirmed that discussions are underway with VANOC around accommodating media.

The town is enjoying a construction boom, with the new Quest University underway, Capilano College doing its expansion and developers building condos and townhomes throughout the community.

“I think we have made VANOC quite aware of what is available in the community,” he said. “We would be honoured to be a host for the accredited media for 2010. I think it would be a great chance to showcase what is going on in Squamish.”

Meanwhile Sarp said he is pleased with the progress so far in Whistler around accommodation.

“I am very optimistic, because I can tell you the community has been very supportive,” he said.

“It is more of a challenge than Vancouver is just because of the ownership process that is different in Whistler than in Vancouver. But we will get there.”