Community legacies top of mind as 2010 officials tour Whistler 

‘We are aspiring to do a lot with these Games’

Vancouver Olympic officials are keeping Whistler’s long-term needs in mind as they plan out the venues.

They are expected to make a decision in the next month on who will design the bobsled/luge track and they are working on a request by the FIS to combine all the alpine speed events at Creekside.

"We are thinking about the post Games operation of the facilities," said Steve Matheson, senior vice president venue development, who was on a tour this week of Whistler’s venue sites with other senior VPs of the Vancouver Organizing Committee and more than 50 contract workers.

Matheson’s comments came partly in response to concerns raised by Whistler Councillor Ken Melamed.

He questioned whether the Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Mountain would be too steep to work as a tourist attraction after the Games were over.

"We want the facility to be as usable as possible after the Games," said Matheson.

Whistler’s bobsled/luge run will be steepest in the world.

Terry Wright, vice-president of Olympic planning for VANOC, said that may be a good thing as that will make it attractive to teams and to thrill seeking tourists.

Added John Furlong, VANOC CEO: "If the aim is thrill seeking then I can tell you this will be a real go-to thing.

"We want it to work so that (we) don’t have to apologize for having a venue of this scope."

While the legacy use of the venues is important planners said they can’t lose site of the fact that the facilities are being built for a sporting event and bobsled/ luge technical advisers are currently saying the teams are looking for more challenging runs.

Councillor Gord McKeever questioned what opportunities there would be for local construction companies as the venues were built.

Matheson suggested the best opportunities for locals would come in the Olympic overlay portion of the Games where there will be "101 ideas that we are going to be talking about with local suppliers and dealers about how they can participate."

Olympic planners for the 2010 Games also want all the venues up and running two years prior to the Games.

"(We want to) avoid surprises and hopefully save some money and not be rushing," said Matheson.

He saw first hand what could happen if venue development and construction is left to the last minute while attending the summer Games in Athens.

"(Athens) left the construction too late and then they had to spend all kinds of money working 24 hours a day to get it done," he said.

That’s not something VANOC officials want to see in B.C.

It is estimated that the Athens Summer Games ended up costing over $10 billion.

With the push on to get building construction of the speed skating oval in Richmond is slated to begin next fall, as is construction of other skating facilities at UBC.

In Whistler organizers plan to break ground next year on the two biggest venues, the Nordic Centre just outside of the resort and the Sliding Centre on Blackcomb. The hope is that they will be finished for the winter of 2008.

"We want to give our Canadian athletes a chance to use the venues for two years before the Games," said Matheson.

He confirmed that it is unlikely there will be an overall labour agreement for venue construction. But, he said, his group is working on a set of principles which they would like bidders to adhere to.

The list would include such things as safety considerations and in-house training to promote jobs in the construction sector.

"We are aspiring to do a lot with these Games," he said.

Meanwhile this week also marked the deadline for designers to submit their ideas for the new 2010 Games logo.

By Tuesday afternoon over 500 proposals had been submitted.

"The office has been going crazy," said Ali Gardiner, of creative services at VANOC.

"We have a big team ready to deal with all the last minute rush so we expect to be working late."

The submissions have come from across Canada and around B.C.

"We wanted to showcase the Canadian creative community and take advantage of all the talent we have here," said Gardiner.

Once all the submissions are in they will be put under lock and key until the international design panel arrives in October to begin the two-day judging process.

"What we want the logo to do is represent the Olympic spirit of Canada and, of course, the host communities, and we want it to say something about who we are," said Gardiner.

It’s likely the new logo will be unveiled in February, to coincide with the five-years-to-go celebrations.

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