olympic update 

The Vancouver-Whistler Olympic bid could work even if there are no transportation alternatives to Highway 99, but the bid society is recommending an improved rail service between the Lower Mainland and Whistler, council heard Monday. Bruce MacMillan, executive director of the Vancouver-Whistler Bid Society, told council members the 2010 Winter Olympics would be a catalyst for transportation enhancements, but the Canadian Olympic Association would be comfortable with the existing transportation network if there were no upgrades. Councillor Kristi Wells took issue with that statement. "I understand you have to sell the bid, but I challenge the assumption that the current transportation system will be enough in 2010," Wells said. MacMillan replied that the province asked what it could do to ensure a successful bid and the bid society said improve the rail service. The province is now looking at options for doing that and has put together an inter-agency task force to look at rail and other transportation issues, MacMillan said. "Our line has been that the Games will generate $260 million for governments," MacMillan said. "That should be invested in transportation infrastructure." Councillor Ken Melamed responded: "So there will be a transportation legacy, even though you don’t need it, but you don’t know whether it will be road or rail." "I think that’s our job as politicians, to push for rail and transportation infrastructure," Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said. MacMillan appeared before council to update members on the Olympic bid and to reconfirm council’s endorsement of the bid. The official bid books must be submitted to the COA by the middle of October. On Nov. 21 the three Canadian cities bidding for the Games — Calgary, Quebec City and Vancouver-Whistler — make their presentations to the COA. The COA members then chose one city to be the official Canadian bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. MacMillan said one of the key objectives of the bid organizers has been to put together the best technical bid for the 2010 Games. International Olympic Committee members have said the Vancouver-Whistler bid is better than any of the six European candidates bidding to host the 2006 Winter Olympics. "None of this would be possible if we didn’t think we could win," MacMillan said. "We’ve talked to international people as well as Canadians; they all say we can win." It’s not clear what other countries will be bidding for the 2010 Games but the United States will not be among them. MacMillan said the technical aspects of the bid are consistent with Whistler’s objectives. "We asked for guidance and advice at the start and it was very clear: you wanted a catalyst for transportation improvements, low impact and value added for the community. We heard you." In addition to putting together a technically sound bid, organizers have focused on the perspective of the athletes and the communities hosting them, and on creating a legacy of training facilities for the athletes. To conform with Whistler’s development plans the proposed athletes village is two hotels — the Delta Whistler Resort and the Westin, currently under construction — rather than a new development. MacMillan said the IOC is increasingly emphasizing environmental protection and plans for the nordic events in the Callaghan Valley meet that objective. The nordic events are planned for the former North Air Mine site. In addition to being a reclaimed mine site the area was logged years ago and has been reforested. By 2010 the trees will be reaching maturity and will be an example of how forestry and recreation can be combined. It’s proposed that the nordic jumps be built into the side of a mountain rather than free-standing, as are the jumps at Calgary. The stadium built for the nordic events will be removed after the Games and the whole area returned to a recreation centre, leaving trails which can be used for cross-country skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. A four-lane road is proposed from Highway 99 to the nordic centre, 10 km up the Callaghan Valley. After the Games the road would be returned to two lanes.

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