VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The city of Vancouver is confident the athletes’ village for the 2010 Winter Olympics will be finished on time, after a report on Thursday that it had quietly lent the builders C$100 million ($84 million) to weather a financial crunch.
City officials refused to confirm or deny that the loan had been given, but said in a written statement “the financial and schedule risks assumed by the city with respect to the Olympic village remain unchanged.”
Vancouver city council approved the money in a closed-door session on October 14, when the private developer was struggling with the international credit crunch and cost overruns in a slowing housing market, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported.
“The city is confident the Olympic Village will be completed on scheduled and turned over to VANOC (the Vancouver Organizing Committee) as planned,” officials said.
The project to house 2,800 athletes and officials for the Vancouver Games is being built by Millennium Development Corp in partnership with the city, which is ultimately responsible for its completion in time for the Games.
VANOC, which provided the project with C$30 million of the C$580 million in venue funding it received from the federal and provincial governments, has also said it was confident the project will be ready on time.
Millennium is marketing the housing units as environmentally friendly condominiums that will be available for use after the Olympics. A receptionist said on Thursday the company’s spokesman was on vacation and that no one else could comment.
The full cost of the project has been estimated at about C$1 billion, and as part of the public-private partnership some of the units will be made available as affordable or social housing.
City councilors campaigning in advance of a November 15, local election refused to comment to local media on the loan report, citing disclosure rules surrounding confidential meetings on city contracts.
But councilor Peter Ladner, the head of the city’s services and budget committee, said the project’s post-Games condominiums were 60 percent sold and that he was confident taxpayers’ money was protected.
The Vancouver-area housing market has taken a sharp downturn in recent months after several years as one of the hottest in Canada.
Housing prices are expected to fall 13 percent in 2009 and another 5 percent in 2010 because of oversupply, according to the Credit Union Central of British Columbia.
The 2010 Games will also have a second athletes’ village in the ski community of Whistler, north of Vancouver, where many of the alpine and nordic events will be held.
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson