City council approved $38,000 in funding for the Initiatives Prince George Spirit of B.C. committee to send a four-person delegation to market Prince George at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
The group, which would include representatives from Initiatives Prince George and the local sporting community, would be based in B.C. Canada House -a facility designed to promote B.C. as the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Tom Berekoff, chair of the Games and Opportunities (GO) subcommittee of Spirit of B.C., said their is real opportunities for Prince George for 2010 and beyond.
“We see sport hosting as an incredible opportunity to draw international visitors to our community. In Torino there will be key managers, leaders and decision-makers,” Berekoff said. “[And] we believe, firmly believe, there is an international trade opportunity. It’s beyond sport.”
Prince George has the facilities for athletes to train in hockey, curling, speed skating, cross-country skiing and biathlon, he said.
Berekoff said the week-long trip to the Torino Games is the best opportunity for Prince George to sell its’ hosting capacity directly to Olympic team managers.
“We believe this is just a start, but we need that start,” Berekoff said. “If we thought this was a pipe-dream we wouldn’t be here.”
In addition, B.C. Canada House is strategically located near media facilities to attract the 2,000 to 3,000 international journalists who will be “hungry for stories” about the next Winter Olympic host province, he said.
Initiatives Prince George corporate manager Kathie Scouten said there is an opportunity for post-secondary institutes, tourism promoters, business and other interested groups to “piggyback” onto the delegation for a cost of $5,500.
These groups can use the opportunity for their own promotion and take advantage of community-based hosting, she said.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm from all the sectors we’ve talked to,” Scouten said. “We have the product, we can meet the demand.”
While Prince George has been pro-active in pursuing Olympic benefits, other communities including Penticton have also been looking at similar opportunities.
“Some communities already have international hosting experience,” she said. “Prince George has national experience, but needs to add the international. Prince George has to work harder.”