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Vancouver hopes to secure '10 Olympics

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The 2001 World Figure Skating Championships is a battle for the sport's top spot. But here in Vancouver, there's another contest afoot.

Vancouver and its nearby winter resort neighbor, Whistler, are in the mix for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Although the Canadian Olympic Association is plugging Toronto full time for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the winter bid representatives aren't dissuaded.

Nor are they shying away from the inevitable scrutiny cast on the bid process stemming from the Salt Lake bid scandal.

Representatives from the Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid Corp. are using this week's figure skating event to get some face-time with skating judges, International Skating Union officials and leaders of the various national governing bodies of sport.

"We have been talking to some of the international people — from the ISU and the International Olympic Committee — just to welcome them to Vancouver," bid spokesman Sam Corea said. "There have been no formal meetings. It has been very casual. This event doesn't need selling — it sells itself."

Corea said the Vancouver 2010 bidders are confident they have a solid package to offer the IOC: skating venues in Vancouver, a world-class ski resort in Whistler that this season hosted the freestyle world championships and World Cup snowboard competitions, and a gorgeous seaside community that has proven its ability to welcome the world.

The committee also already has two-thirds of the $22 million it needs to wage a legitimate bid effort, Corea said.

And, he said, the committee is playing by the book, given the spectre of Salt Lake City's tribulations that continue to cast a shadow over Olympic bids.

"Certainly the rules are different now," Corea said. "And we're working under the new rules. We've got a former Supreme Court judge that oversees all of our movements. We have a strict conflict of interest policy, and there will be no wining and dining of IOC delegates."

Corea said representatives from Whistler have been in contact with some Olympic types in Salt Lake City, though he declined to specify whom. And the Vancouver/Whistler contingent would not likely look to emulate the particulars of Utah's bid, he said.

For its part, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee isn't giving advice where it isn't requested.

"It's not up to SLOC to judge whether Vancouver has a shot at the 2010 Olympics," said SLOC media relations manager Vania Grandi. "That's up to the International Olympic Committee to determine."

If figure skating coach Marilyn Barlow had her way, Vancouver would win the bid by a landslide. But, wearing her daughter's "Vancouver Whistler 2010" vest (her daughter works with the committee), she admitted she may be biased.

"Whistler is an awesome place," she said. "You couldn't find a better place to have the Games."

That's the message Corea hopes the bigwigs here at the figure skating competition take with them, and the long-term effect of the Salt Lake scandal.

"If the whole Salt Lake thing hadn't happened, who knows? We might have been wining and dining IOC delegates. But we're absolutely not doing that," he said. "You learn from every bid."

But maybe some more than others.