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Whistler's athletes' village an 'alpine escape'

Squamish snowboarder Tom Velisek said the Olympic and Paralympic Village Whistler is a far cry from the dorm-style accommodations he experienced at Torino 2006.

"It seems like a gated community, a nice little quaint town," said Velisek, who competed in snowboardcross.

On Thursday, media toured the $250 million, 40-hectare site, six kilometres south of Whistler Village. VANOC is scheduled to take-over Nov. 1 and house 2,850 athletes, officials and coaches in mountain-style, earth-tone duplexes, townhouses and apartments during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Temporary units in portable trailers will be hauled to six communities for social housing after the Games.

While Vancouver's $1.1 billion Southeast False Creek Olympic Village is an "urban oasis," VANOC villages vice-president Nejat Sarp said Whistler provides athletes an "alpine escape" with comfort and convenience close to nature.

The site is anchored by the $50.4 million Whistler Athletes' Centre gymnasium and recreation hall, which was originally budgeted for $16 million. The original 2003 bid contemplated a $97.96 million village near the Callaghan Valley.

After the Games, the village becomes Cheakamus Crossing where 250 units are earmarked for sale and rental to area employees.

Whistler's $160 million contribution was backed by the Municipal Finance Authority.

"Our whole goal from day one was to minimize that risk," said Whistler 2020 Development Corporation vice-president Neil Godfrey.

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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