Olympics moving into operational phase 

Organizers of the 2010 Games spent more money on Whistler venues this quarter than anywhere else.

For the three months ending Jan. 31, 2008 $6.3 million was spent on the Whistler Sliding Centre, $6.4 million was spent on the Whistler Athletes’ Centre, $1.2 million was spent on Whistler Creekside and $8.1 million was spent on Whistler Olympic Park.

The information is part of the latest quarterly financial report, released March 14 by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC).

The spending is in line with the push by VANOC to get the construction finished as soon as possible as it moves into the operational phase.

“While we’re pleased with the progress to date, we also know that many tests lie ahead, as is expected in the normal course of staging the Games,” said VANOC chief operating officer John Furlong.

“With construction at the mountain venues substantially complete and our first sport events under out belt, our team is moving deeper into the operational phase.

“It’s an important time for our team as we learn valuable lessons that will ultimately prepare us to stage extraordinary Games in 2010.”

VANOC’s total venue development expenditures for the quarter were $38.4 million, as compared to $63.3 million in the previous quarter, and now total $466.3 million. The venue budget of $580 million is funded equally by the provincial and federal governments.

The contingency is now at $27.05 million.

“Management considers the venue program fully funded and is confident of completing the venue program at a cash cost at, or under, $580 million,” stated the report.

However, the report goes on to say there are still possible perils ahead, including performance risks such as weather, risks to VANOC’s reputation which may damage sponsorship support, volatility of the Canadian dollar, and the fact that all sponsorship dollar amounts are not locked in yet.

VANOC concentrated on its contingency plans for weather problems at the recent FIS Alpine World Cup events in Whistler. In one case it moved an event ahead 30 minutes to take advantage of a good weather window.

The Whistler test events also saw a record number of snow cats working to keep the runs in tip-top form. They were purchased or leased by VANOC and are one reason why the Sport and Games Operations budget was up, as several outdoor venues became operational.

This past season there were 16 Piston Bully snow cats working on the alpine venue on Whistler Mountain, four in the Callaghan Valley at Whistler Olympic Park, and three at the freestyle venue on Cypress Mountain.

Piston Bully was chosen by VANOC following a bidding process two years ago. There are only two companies that provide this type of machinery, Piston Bully and Bombardier.

Tim Gayda, VANOC’s vice president sport, said the new design of alpine courses in particular lends itself to using machines to move snow rather than man-power.

“(Snow cats) have played a big role in getting the races off,” he said. “It is a very important piece of equipment for sport.”

All but the four cats at Whistler Olympic Park are on varying lease agreements and will be returned after the Games.

The Callaghan cats, which were purchased, will stay as a legacy, said Gayda.

  The financials also show the popularity of the 2010 mascots, Sumi, Quatchi and Miga. More than 103,000 mascot stuffies have been shipped to retailers since their launch last November.

The report shows that by the end of January more than $7.3 million had been collected in licensing and merchandise revenues. More than $1 million was from the mascots — that total does not include sales over Christmas.

Meanwhile Olympic organizers got more support from business and government in the last week.

On Tuesday B.C. Hydro announced that it would be an Official Supporter of the 2010 Olympics and will provide the resources to supply clean power for the Games. In addition, through its Power Smart programs, B.C. Hydro will work with VANOC to ensure the Games are energy-efficient and promote energy conservation across B.C.

It is estimated that broadcasting the Games will be the equivalent of eight to 10 Super Bowls simultaneously for 17 days. VANOC will need high levels of reliable energy to meet this demand.

Part of the support is based on new energy conservation initiatives from B.C. Hydro.

YVR also became the first airport in the history of the Games to become a sponsor in the Official Supplier category.

“YVR provides the perfect opportunity for us to welcome the world in 2010,” said Furlong at the announcement March 13.

The province of Manitoba also signed a “contributing province agreement” with VANOC Monday.

“The 2010 Games are an opportunity for provinces like Manitoba, as well as Canada, to showcase their local talent to the world,” said Manitoba Premier Gary Doer.

Manitoba’s Olympic plans include, establishing a Manitoba House in Vancouver during the Games to showcase local athletes and cultural performers, organizing a Manitoba Day at the Games to promote the province, and developing a Manitoba portion of the torch relay.

Under the Contributing Province/Territory Program signatory provinces and territories receive a package of benefits that create a close association with the Games in return for a financial contribution based on population size.

Manitoba will contribute $750,000 toward athletes via Own the Podium and $750,000 toward the 2010 Cultural Olympiad showcasing Manitoba’s culture and arts.

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