Whistler urged to get condo owners on board for Games accommodation. 

On time Whistler construction sends strong message internationally

The top 2010 Olympic official urged Whistler businesses to get on board in securing visitor accommodation for the Games.

"We are really hoping that the community will really rise to the occasion around accommodation," said Vancouver Organizing Committee CEO John Furlong.

"We need every single room we can get."

Furlong, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon this week, said the hotels are all on board but the resort’s unique blend of condo ownership is creating a challenge in securing all the rooms needed.

"We need to pull (condominium owners) together and we are looking for ways to do that," he said.

"But it is not easy as many of them are not from here. We need to really try and rally them all together and have them participate and contribute to this, because the long term benefit is going to be fantastic for all those owners."

It is a challenge faced by many mountain-based Olympic hosts, said Furlong, who hopes to have all accommodation secured by the time the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics are over.

At the root of the issue lies the belief by VANOC that many who travel to the resort daily to see Olympic events will not want to leave.

"Truthfully I do think people will come here and they will say 'I’m not going back to Vancouver'," said Furlong.

"They will say, ‘I need a room,’ and the problem is that it’s Whistler’s problem and we have to solve it."

During the afternoon address he outlined the progress made in the year since he last spoke to Chamber members.

Front and centre was the start of work on the Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Mountain and the Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley.

"They are both complex projects and I am excited they have started in the date we said they would in Prague back in 2003," said Furlong.

"Internationally this is a great sign because it sends a message to the world that a promise made here is a promise kept."

On the revenue front he reminded the audience that VANOC has already raised over half a billion dollars from sponsors.

But VANOC is projecting that it needs to raise $1.7 billion in revenue for the Games. There is no final cost for the Games yet as it is too far out from the event, said Furlong.

He also pointed to the unique way VANOC is involving security agencies from ground zero so that costs can be minimized. The template will also be useful for future nations which host the Games.

In the long run, said Furlong, the hope is to "make the whole idea of security dissipate and make this about sport and international brotherhood and fellowship, and what it is we celebrate when we talk about Olympicism."

Furlong also shared some moving stories he heard from leaders around the world who live in war-torn nations and do not get to celebrate sport in freedom. The tales were told to him at a meeting in Athens, which was part of the Olympic Truce program, set up seven years ago to try and stop countries from fighting for the duration of the Games.

In one, a man from Iraq told how he and a busload of athletes were held at gunpoint facing execution on a deserted road. But as it became clear to those holding them that they were indeed athletes the guns were dropped and all were allowed to continue their journey.

These stories made it even more important to keep the vision of the Games at the forefront as organizers start to build, said Furlong.

"We have an obsession at VANOC about making sure the Games reach far beyond things like venues construction, technology and transportation and all the things that concern us as day to day issues. It must affect the lives of children," said Furlong.

"It must touch families so that our kids will look at this and be inspired."

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