Scramble on to save 2010 Games village

Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:55pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Organizers of the 2010 Olympics remain confident the Vancouver athletes village will be completed on time despite the project's money woes, the group's executive director said on Tuesday.

Provincial officials are waiting for a request from the city of Vancouver for help refinancing the C$1 billion ($820 million) housing project, which saw its private funding dry up as the Canadian city's real estate market slowed.

Standard & Poors warned on Tuesday the financing problems could hurt the city's credit rating if it is forced to borrow extensively to ensure the village is ready when the Games begin in February 2010.

Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) Chief Executive John Furlong acknowledged his group was hearing concerns about the issue, although it is not directly responsible for funding the project that will house 2,800 athletes and officials.

"This is one that nobody is obviously happy about, but I think there is a belief that we have the focus and the attitude and determination to get this where we need to be," Furlong said.

"Clearly at the end of the day we have to have an Olympic village. We know that. The city knows that," he said.

The facility was originally to be funded by a private developer, Millennium Development, which planned to sell many of the housing units as high-priced waterfront condominiums after the Olympics.

Vancouver which agreed to sell the land to the developer hailed the deal in 2006 as a way to fund the Olympic-related project at no risk to taxpayers.   Continued...

<p>The Athletes Village for the upcoming 2010 Olympic Winter Games is shown under construction in Vancouver, British Columbia October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>