Vancouver gets help to complete 2010 village

Sun Jan 18, 2009 5:20pm EST
 
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Vancouver won approval on Sunday to borrow more than C$450 million ($360 million) to complete the main athletes village for the 2010 Winter Olympics after its private financing was cut off.

The British Columbia Legislature gave Vancouver permission to alter the city's charter so it could raise the money without holding a public referendum that officials had worried would not allow the complex to be completed on time.

The C$1 billion project to house some 2,800 Olympic athletes and officials was supposed to have been funded by a private developer who planned to sell most of the units after the Winter Games as luxury condominiums.

Lenders led by U.S. hedge fund Fortress Investment Group cut off money to the developer last year midway through construction over concerns about cost overruns and the weak economy. An estimated C$458 million is needed to complete the project.

The city, which has already given the developer an emergency C$100 million loan to keep work going, is financially responsible because of agreements it made with lenders and Olympic organizers the housing would be ready on time.

The Winter Games will be held in February 2010.

Legislators voted unanimously in favor of the bill despite nearly 20 hours of debate during which the opposition New Democrats accused the B.C. Liberal Party government of hiding the true cost to taxpayers of hosting the Olympics.

The Vancouver Organising Committee is expected this week to release a revised budget for the 2010 Games that officials have said will outline the expected impact of the global economic crisis.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Miles Evans)

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