Olympic building to start this year

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Vanoc and venue partners expect to begin $358.8-million worth of construction work in this year

Derrick Penner

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee and some of its venue partners will get some $358.8-million worth of construction work underway this year as they begin building the facilities for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

That construction, however, will be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the economic impact of the games, which is estimated at between $5.8 billion and $10 billion.

Olympics often act as “catalyst events” that accelerate the construction of long-desired pieces of infrastructure, said Dave Williams, director of tourism policy and research at Simon Fraser University.

In the case of the Lower Mainland, winning the 2010 Games helped spur development of the $1.7-billion Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit line and the $565-million expansion of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.

However, there is an organization working to make sure that the legacy of the Olympics will be measured in more than thousands of construction jobs or in tens-of-thousands of new visitors as the B.C. business sector boosts its tourism marketing to the world.

2010 Legacies Now is a provincial non-profit society created with the intent of forming partnerships with communities to create sustainable legacies.

“I hope we realize the importance of community through our [Olympic] Games,” said Marion Lay, president and CEO of 2010 Legacies Now.

Lay said sport and recreation were the organization’s focus when it was formed, but its mandate was expanded when it started working with volunteer community groups under an initiative called Spirit of B.C.

Those community committees, she added, wanted to see the Olympics used to foster development of the arts and culture, literacy and volunteerism.

Lay said Legacies Now is focusing on volunteerism because the Games will need an army of capable volunteers to stage the events, but she also wants to see that spirit of volunteerism transform the province into a culture of a more involved citizenry that takes a more active involvement in its communities.

And Lay wants to make sure businesses are a big part of that.

“We know if you want to have more skilled employees in any region of the province, [people] are going to look at [B.C.] and ask ‘is this a good place for my family,'” Lay said.

She added that healthy sports, recreation and cultural sectors are important factors in convincing people that B.C. is “a good place that I’d like to bring our family.”

“And that makes a difference in where businesses decide they’d like to relocate or like to start up,” she added.

In the meantime, B.C.-based building contractors will likely put up stiff competition to build the Olympic venues, despite the unprecedented building boom in the province, said Keith Sashaw, president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association.

To date, Vanoc has let contracts for site preparation of the $55-million sliding centre — the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton venue — and site access construction for the $102-million Nordic ski venue in the Callaghan Valley.

Vanoc expects to tender the remaining work on those venues later this year, along with the first phase of $10.8 million in renovations to Cypress Mountain‘s facilities for freestyle skiing and snowboarding events and $23 million in work at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort for the alpine events.

Also, the University of British Columbia anticipates starting on construction of the $40.8 million winter sports complex that will be used for hockey events while the city of Richmond will begin on the design-build process for the $127 million speed-skating oval.

“There is a certain cachet about being involved in Olympic projects that will attract a lot of initiatives among contractors bidding for the jobs,” Sashaw said.

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Benefits from the 2010 Olympics are beginning to flow.

Value of construction contracts to be tendered in 2005: $359 million

Estimated total impact: $5.8 billion to $10 billion

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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