(Refiles to fix typographical error in headline; updates with
VANOC comments, credit rating)
By Allan Dowd
VANCOUVER, British Columbia Jan 13 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
"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.
But Millennium had trouble getting financing so the city
quietly agreed in 2007 to guarantee lenders, led by U.S.-based
Fortress Investment Group (FIG.N), it would take responsibility
for completing the project if Millennium could not.
The city was forced to help Millennium again in September
2008 when the lenders stopped advancing money as construction
costs rose and fears mounted that a slowing housing market
meant that post-Games real estate sales would not pay off the
News of the 2007 loan guarantee and that lenders had cut
off the funding were made public last week.
Vancouver city council voted on Monday to ask British
Columbia's legislature to give the city the legal authority to
ensure the needed financing, but provincial officials said they
have not yet received that request.
The city is expected to ask for its charter to be amended
so it can borrow more than C$450 million without holding a
lengthy public referendum. The city is also trying to negotiate
a new financing deal with Fortress.
Vancouver debt is now rated AA+, but Standard & Poor's said
that might change if the city is forced to borrow substantially
to replace the funding being provided by Fortress.
The 2010 Games will also have an athletes village in the
ski resort community of Whistler, British Columbia, where
alpine events will be held. That project, which will be used to
provide low-cost housing after the Games, has not had financial
(Reporting by Allan Dowd, John McCran; editing by Cynthia