Yukon buys partnership with 2010 Olympic Games

Canada may be the host nation for the 2010 Olympic Games, but host city Vancouver is calling the shots.

Canada may be the host nation for the 2010 Olympic Games, but host city Vancouver is calling the shots.

Specifically, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANCO) is calling the shots.

Friday, the Yukon government announced it would become the fifth province/territory to participate in VANOC’s Contributing Province/Territory Program, which gives provinces and territories a voice in the planning of the Games.

“This certainly is a very momentous occasion for Yukon,” said Premier Dennis Fentie, speaking at the press conference held at the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse.

“We recognize that a major sporting event such as the Olympics can have lasting benefits in areas of Yukon tourism, sport, economy and in our culture.”

However, the partnership comes with a price tag.

The Yukon government is forking over $166,667 to VANCO in order to have more influence over the route of the torch relay through the Yukon, to send participants to the Cultural Olympiad and for a Yukon Day at the Games.

“Over the next year we will be announcing our participation in the torch relay, the Cultural Olympiad and a special Yukon Day at the Games,” said Fentie. “These are to name a few areas of co-operation.”

In January, it was announced the torch relay will pass through all 13 provinces and territories — making it the longest torch relay in Olympic history, spanning 35,000 kilometres.

So the Yukon was never at risk of being excluded from participation.

However, Elaine Taylor, Yukon’s deputy premier and minister of tourism and culture, made it seem like Yukon’s participation in the torch relay is part of the package.

“So we will also have an opportunity to be involved in the torch relay, which will showcase some communities in the Yukon,” said Taylor. “And that announcement will be forthcoming in due time … (It’s) another opportunity to put Yukon on the international stage.”

Being only the fifth to join the program — and the first territory — it may seem curious that, despite all the proposed benefits, such as having their own theme-day at the Games, not every province is scampering to join.

“(BC) Premier Campbell has been out there inviting every province and every territory to be part of the program,” said VANCO director Taleeb Noormohamed.

“We only launched the program about a year ago and in a year you’ve seen Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Manitoba, Yukon (join). A couple others have approvals in place, but they haven’t been announced,” he added.

With more than 500 days still left to go before the lighting of the Olympic flame in Vancouver, Noormohamed is certain every province and territory will be signed up by the start of the Games.

“Will we have everyone by the Games? Absolutely,” said Noormohamed. “I think I would be very surprised if there’s a province or territory that isn’t part of the program.”

Yukon Day at the Games will be February 20, and will be a chance to showcase Yukon culture for an international audience.

However, no specific reason for the choice of day was provided.

“February 20 happens to fall right smack within the middle of the Games and I think it is a great opportunity for tremendous media coverage, in terms of international coverage,” said Taylor.

“It happens to be surrounded by a number of important