Bid corporation weighing options outside Callaghan 

The Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation is weighing a number of potential sites outside the Callaghan Valley for the Winter Games, should conflicts within the valley make staging the Nordic events there impossible.

The Corporation has until November, 2001 to iron out any management issues within its chosen venues before submitting its bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Marion Lay, the chair of the 2010 Bid Board of Directors, says a special committee has been formed to evaluate the existing pressures on the valley, which include logging rights, commercial recreation companies, public user groups, mining interests, First Nations claims and environmental concerns.

"The great thing about the Callaghan is that it is in a bowl, it has no wind and great snow – from the technical side, it is a fabulous potential facility," Lay said last week.

If chosen the valley would play a key role in the Games by accounting for 85 of the roughly 200 medals awarded. It is proposed as the site for cross-country skiing, ski jumping, bobsleigh, luge, Nordic combined and the biathlon. However, Lay says it does lose points for lacking a good access road and the number of issues currently facing it.

"We are investigating other potential sites on the North Shore of Vancouver and areas that could be opened up around Squamish," she says. "What makes these other options a bit iffy however is that they have a lot more rain and ice on the jumps, which is very dangerous for high performance athletes."

Lay says every site has its pros and cons, and with any infrastructure development, people get nervous.

"People want to know how it will affect them, how much it will cost and who will maintain it," she explains. "The best thing about this bid is that it leaves a legacy for Canadian athletes and more facilities are desperately needed by this sporting nation."

Another concern highlighted by Lay is Whistler’s reputed tendency for fog and low cloud on the downhill course – another major hazard for high speed athletes.

"Part of the international rumour is that Whistler hasn’t been able to hold a successful downhill, although it’s been in that December time-frame. We will be pushing to show that in that eight-week February to March window for the Games we can have fabulous weather."

Whistler has successfully held several World Cup downhills in February and March, but races scheduled for December were cancelled three years in a row due to blizzards.

Lay says if Toronto wins in its bid for the 2008 Summer Games it will significantly reduce British Columbia’s chances of hosting the Winter Games in 2010. A decision on the venue for the Summer Games is due from Olympic officials on July 13, 2001. Lay says regardless of the outcome for Toronto, the Corporation will push for 2010 or possibly 2014 because of the wide benefits a bid brings.

"I hope the 2010 bid will be a catalyst to bring groups together and address immediate issues such as transportation, because of the ongoing problems with Highway 99," she says. "I’m not sure whether the solution lies in a new road, an expanded road, rail improvements or a combination of all these factors, but hopefully this will put the spotlight on it."

In the meantime, the corporation says it will continue piecing together the "giant, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle" that is its bid. The corporation plans to open a new office next to the Whistler museum later this month as a centre for the public to seek information on the bid or to contribute to the bid formation process.

The original plans to open the 2010 Bid Whistler Community Office in early February were put on the backburner following the unexpected death of Carol Anne Letheren, the chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Association.

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