Attendance poor but information valuable 

InfoZone meetings will resume in September

Despite overall poor attendance, most view the 2010 Olympic Bid Corporation’s InfoZone Live meetings to be valuable and necessary.

"I think it was absolutely necessary for the bid committee to do that because people were feeling a little left out on information," said Mitch Rhodes, president of AWARE, who attended several of the information sessions.

The sessions started about 18 months ago. They ran monthly for the first few months then began weekly as more and more information became available from the many working groups studying issues surrounding the Games.

Whistler and Vancouver will learn Aug. 29 if they are short-listed by the International Olympic Committee as a possible host site for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

"Just the fact that knowing others in the community are going there and attending these InfoZones probably makes the community feel better," said Rhodes.

He also believes the sessions affected community support for the Games.

"I think… community support for the bid has gone up a little bit because of knowing that information is getting out and at least people who are interested in various issues can go there and hear the information and express their views.

"I think the support numbers would have gone the other way if they hadn’t held the InfoZones."

The sessions were also an important forum for locals and visitors to get their concerns across to those with the bid.

While Rhodes isn’t under any illusions about how much effect people’s opinions might have on plans for the Games he nevertheless felt the exchange was valuable.

"I think (information sharing) is a two-way street. Not that we will have great influence but I think it is helpful for the bid."

InfoZone has ended for the summer as organizers felt the community would be focused on outside sports during the summer months.

The sessions have been broadcast on Cable 6 since April. Each session would appear four times in the week following.

"It always surprises me how many people watch Cable 6," said Debbie Smythe, manager of community consultation for the bid.

"We would hear comments from people about it. They may not have heard the whole thing but they got some information."

While attendance was everything the bid had hoped for at many of the sessions Smythe said holding the meetings was vital.

"We believe they were truly profitable in terms of getting information out," she said.

"The people who were there, regardless of the size of the crowd, were accurately informed and they had the opportunity to talk to others about something that interested them.

"And when they had conversations with others the information they shared was also accurate."

The sessions were attended by anywhere from 10 to 50 people. The Callaghan sessions were always the best attended as the community has a great interest in the development of the area. The resort is currently in discussions with the provincial government about receiving part of the Callaghan as a community land bank.

Smythe said the bid plans to restart the information sessions in September although the format and location may change.

It’s hoped that a new speaker session will get underway with visitors from previous venue cities who can share their views on how the Games impacted their cities and communities.

Smyth believes it is absolutely necessary to give the community the chance to get the information that is available.

"It was their choice whether to come or not," she said.

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