July 14, 2009 in Idaho

Winter Olympics could be boon for region

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

Gary Lunn, Canada’s minister of state for sport, address 500 delegates at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region conference in Boise.
(Full-size photo)

More on the Web

Visit the official 2010 Olympics site.

BOISE - The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will be an economic boon at a time when one is badly needed, Canada’s minister of state for sport told officials from throughout the region Tuesday.

“It’s put us in a very strong position,” Minister Gary Lunn told 500 U.S. and Canadian officials gathered in Boise for the annual summit meeting of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region. “You’re going to see a lot of Americans traveling to the Pacific Northwest.”

Already, he said, “The province built a brand-new highway from Vancouver to Whistler.” In addition to boosting access to the Olympics, that’ll make the popular Whistler-Blackcomb resort area more easily accessible to travelers permanently.

Idaho state Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, who co-chaired a session on tourism at the PNWER conference this week, said the Olympics will bring travelers from points east along the I-90 corridor through Coeur d’Alene and Spokane. Restaurants, motels, gas stations and more will benefit, he said.

“Even in our current recession, there are still opportunities to capitalize on travel - that’s a good thing,” Goedde said.

Spokane also has the AT&T 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which will determine the U.S. competitors at the Vancouver games and will conclude just 18 days before the Olympics start. Spokane officials estimate that the figure skating championships will generate $17 million in direct spending in the city, plus $1.4 million in state and local taxes.

The Vancouver Olympics are expected to draw a television audience of 3 billion, Lunn said, which would be a record.

Canada has spent $2 billion already preparing for the games, including constructing all-new sporting venues, from ski jumps to skating ovals. “They’re absolutely breathtaking,” Lunn boasted. The luge and bobsled track built for the 2010 games has just been declared the fastest such course in the world, he said.

The 2010 games will mark the debut of a new Olympic event: Ski cross, in which four to six skiers at once race through a high-speed course filled with jumps, banked turns and obstacles.

Lunn is hoping the games offer another first for Canada. “We’ve had two Olympic games before, in Montreal and in Calgary, and we have never, never won a gold medal at home,” he said. To applause, he declared, “That’s going to change.”

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