COC pleased with progress on Whistler venues 

National Olympic committee trying to secure best legacy possible from 2010 Games

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So far Whistler’s Olympic venues are not much to look at – a few clearcuts in the forest connected by dirt roads.

Still, the Canadian Olympic Committee decided to pay the venues an official visit this week to kick off its own logistical planning for 2010, while helping VANOC representatives in Vancouver and Whistler prepare for delegations from over a hundred National Olympic Committees that will visit in 2007 and 2008.

"Other national Olympic committees are going to go through this process a couple of years before the Games, and we need to be ready so athletes and officials go home talking about what a great experience it was and what a great job VANOC is doing," COC chief executive officer Chris Rudge said Monday after touring venue sites in Whistler.

While things are still in the early stages, Rudge says the COC is happy with the progress they’ve seen.

"Obviously there’s not a lot of point in seeing everything on the ground… but I’m really impressed with the way that VANOC has made the shift from organizing committee to hosts at the venues. In the end we want people to come away and say that not only were the Games great, but the organizing committee deserves a gold medal for helping the COC to prepare," said Rudge. "I’m also impressed with the knowledge of the people at each venue, there’s a site specialist everywhere you go."

The COC is particularly happy with the fact that construction of most venues is on or ahead of schedule, which means athletes will have two to three years of training at those venues prior to 2010.

In comparison, the upcoming Games in Torino, Italy have been criticized for being behind schedule. Some of the venues are still under construction, which in turn has made it difficult for visiting Olympic Committees and athletes to plan for the Games in February.

Whistler and Vancouver won’t have that problem, said Rudge.

While the COC is working with VANOC on the Games, the COC also represents Canadian winter sports organizations.

The ongoing debate over the future of ski jumping facilities in Canada – the Calgary Olympic Development Committee has applied to close the jumping centre in Calgary while VANOC has announced it would only build temporary competition jumps in the Callaghan Valley for 2010 – is continuing.

Rudge said it was unfortunate, but Canada cannot fund all sports equally and still expect to be competitive.

"A big concern we have as the COC is what is the legacy of these Games for high performance sport – not just for the physical assets, but how profitable the Games are going to be because the profits will go back into sport… and that results in more participation in sports. The broader the base of the pyramid, the higher the peak," said Rudge.

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