Regional governments look for Olympic opportunities 

P>By Andrew Mitchell

According to Carl Wilgus, the Idaho Tourism Director, the entire northwest region can benefit from Vancouver and Whistler hosting the 2010 Games if governments and the tourism industry get organized.

The only question is whether regional governments can work together on the strategy, or if governments and communities will be left to compete for those benefits.

Either way, Idaho is hoping to do what it did before the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah, and that’s to offer Idaho facilities to national teams for pre-event training. Several teams took up the offer, and many stayed in Idaho and only traveled to Salt Lake City for events.

Sun Peaks has already signed a multi-year deal with the Austrian alpine ski team to train at the Kamloops-area resort prior to the first World Cup races in North America each winter for the next several years.

Wilgus would also like to see some opportunities to promote Idaho as a tourism destination and a place to do business.

Last week Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) held a Regional Economic Leadership Forum in Whistler. Representatives from B.C., Alberta, The Yukon, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Montana met to discuss several topics, including energy, the Olympics, and the impending laws that would require everyone, Americans included, to present passports at the U.S. border.

Wilgus’s message to other representatives regarding the Olympics is "you snooze, you lose."

"The Games are going to come here in a little over four years, and something is definitely going to happen," said Wilgus, who chaired a round table discussion on regional tactics. "I can tell you right now that your ability to get any value (from the Games) is proportionate to the energy you put into it now…. And never again in your lifetime will you have that opportunity again."

In addition to opportunities to promote the region through the Games, and host national teams and events, there are also economic opportunities for businesses. While the border does create some problems, Brian Krieger, the general manager of the 2010 Commerce Centre, said that no preference would be given to local or regional suppliers bidding on Olympic contracts.

That includes $470 million for venue construction (the bidding period to build the luge track closes on Nov. 30), a $1.35 billion operations budget, and $2 billion in contracts from tourism, sponsors and media starting in 2007. In addition, the province is spending approximately $3 billion on infrastructure improvements leading up to 2010, including the RAV rail transit line from Richmond to Vancouver, and the Sea to Sky Highway upgrades.

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