Intrawest close to making deal to host Olympic events 

Intrawest and the 2010 Olympic Bid Corporation are putting the finishing touches on a deal which would put the Olympic alpine and sliding events on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

Both sides were being mum on the deal at press time Wednesday but they agreed that the details were only days away from being released.

At a recent meeting an Olympic bid official mentioned that the operators of the mountains used for the Salt Lake Olympics got US$30 million in compensation for hosting events last February.

Vancouver 2010 Bid Corp vice president Terry Wright also said the Intrawest deal could cost between $10 million and $30 million.

But Doug Forseth, vice president of operations for Whistler-Blackcomb, said that figure was premature.

"We can anticipate that there will be some impact," said Forseth.

"But to put a number on it right now… is speculation."

Forseth said Intrawest was very supportive of the Games and had been involved in the process since it began.

But, he said, there are issues which are of concern.

Chief among those are how Vancouver skiers are going to be impacted by the Games and how many hotel rooms in the resort will be occupied by the Olympic family, sponsors and other spectators.

Past experience has proved that spectators do not ski and neither do visiting dignitaries for the most part.

"There is a pretty direct correlation between the number of hotel rooms and the number of skier visits," said Forseth.

"We have 20 years history on that."

No skiers mean no ticket sales, no rentals, no ski and boarding lessons, and no on-mountain food and beverage consumption.

Intrawest is also worried about how many drive-to skiers will bother to come up to the mountains if they face delays on the roads or are forced onto public transit.

Dow Jones reports Joe Houssian, chairman, president and chief executive of Intrawest, saying that the build up to the Olympics and the aftermath would be positive for the company but the actual Olympics would be "hurtful."

He was speaking at the company’s annual general meeting.

Meanwhile the debate over Vancouver’s plebiscite took another interesting turn last week.

While Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell has stated that he would not actively campaign for the "yes" side he did take the step of writing personally to the head of the International Olympic Committee to say he "absolutely" endorses the 2010 Olympic bid.

In the two-page missive Campbell said the plebiscite was a way to show the IOC and the rest of the world how committed the city is to hosting the event.

The vote has been set for Feb. 22, 2003 just seven days before the IOC Evaluation Commission will visit Vancouver and Whistler.

The question reads: "Do you support or do you oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation in hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter games and Para-olympic winter games?"

Voters will have a chance of answering: "Yes, I support the city’s participation" or "No, I oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation."

Vancouver’s competitors for the Games are Salzburg, Austria and Pyeongchang, Korea. The Swiss city of Bern withdrew its bid for the Games three months ago after voters rejected funding some of the facilities.

The IOC will choose the host for the 2010 Games in July 2003.

Part of the IOC’s decision will be based on Vancouver’s blueprint for the Games contained in the 460 page bid book.

More than 200 copies of the book will be produced by Metropolitan Fine Printers and sent to the IOC Jan. 10, 2003.

The book is a three volume set in a red and white sleeve. The volumes fit into a cedar box made form recycled B.C. Hydro poles.

The book is printed on recycled paper using vegetable-based dyes, including a colour dubbed "2010 red."

Once the IOC has seen the bid book it will be available to the public.

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