Callaghan site officially rejected for athletes village 

Whistler has abandoned plans to build the athletes village for the 2010 Winter Olympics in the Callaghan Valley...

Whistler has abandoned plans to build the athletes village for the 2010 Winter Olympics in the Callaghan Valley 13 km south of the village.

The new preferred sit of the athletes village, which will have 216 rooms and a permanent athlete training centre, is near the landfill area, opposite the town’s industrial park, about 5.5 kilometres south of the village.

A second site is also being looked at. It lies on undeveloped land between the subdivisions of Alpine and Emerald about 5 kilometres north of the village.

"We showed the (International Olympic Committee) team when they were here (in March) the two option sites we were looking at and they had some comments and input into that," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

"Staff will do a report and give a recommendation to council."

It’s expected a decision will be made by late June or early July on the new village site. About $32.5 million will be contributed by VANOC, the organizing committee for the 2010 Games, for the construction of the village.

The municipality plans to use some of the facility for resident-restricted housing after the Games. Additionally, the province has promised to provide Whistler with 300 acres of Crown land prior to the Games, to be used for resident-restricted housing. In terms of infrastructure costs, there may be advantages to having some of that Crown land adjacent to or near the athletes village.

The decision to drop the Callaghan as the site of the athletes village was the result of input from local residents into the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan. Most locals felt new resident-restricted housing should be close to the existing developments in Whistler and rejected the idea of building a community of up to 8,000 people in the Callaghan.

Terry Wright, part of the 2010 transition team, confirmed VANOC knew there were on-going discussions to change the site of the athletes village.

"Our position all along has been that the site had to work for the community and work for us," he said.

"We have been working with council and staff looking at alternates since it became apparent that the Callaghan probably wasn’t the community’s first choice."

Wright also told over 200 people at a conference in Whistler on April 29 that changes in the way cross-country races are now run is also changing the plans for the Nordic centre in the Callaghan Valley. Most cross-country races now begin with mass starts, rather than sending skiers out onto courses one at a time. Mass starts require larger starting areas.

A request for proposals for the Nordic centre is expected to go out in the next two or three weeks, Wright said. He hopes preliminary designs will be available in August or September.

The Nordic centre and sliding centre on Blackcomb, where the bobsleigh and luge events will be held, will be the first Olympic venues to start construction, with work crews moving onto the Nordic centre site in mid-2005.

It will take three summers to build the Nordic centre. Construction of the sliding centre is expected to take place over 2006 and 2007. All Olympic competition venues are scheduled to be completed by 2008.

VANOC is also looking at some of the alpine skiing events, as there is some concern that the slalom and GS courses proposed in the bid book are a "little flat," said Wright.

"We are looking at options around that," he said.

However, said Wright: "Whistler will be able to boast that it has the steepest Bobsled-luge track in the world."

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