New Zealand Winter Olympics bid 'ambitious'

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2011

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A mystery group is pushing for a South Island bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The group, New Zealand 2022 Winter Olympic Bid, has created a website, Facebook page, logo and two-minute promotional video.

Talk about a joint Christchurch-Queenstown bid for the first southern hemisphere Winter Games has grown after suggestions of a clash between the 2022 Fifa World Cup and the Winter Olympics.

However, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge said there were no plans to move the Games date.

The group, which could not be contacted, is also associated with a Brisbane bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Christchurch skiing identity Anton Coberger said New Zealand as host was "laughably improbable", while the New Zealand Olympic Committee said such a plan would be "ambitious in the extreme".

In 1998, a bid for the 2006 Winter Olympics by Christchurch businessman Bruce Ullrich, a former Olympic and Commonwealth Games administrator, was aborted.

Other sites believed to be considering a 2022 Games bid include Harbin in China, Munich in Germany, Lillehammer in Norway, Barcelona and Zaragoza in Spain, Toulouse in France and Quebec in Canada.

The winner will be announced in 2015.

New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary-general Barry Maister said those who had been to a Winter Olympics realised it was an "enormous undertaking".

He was "blown away" by the logistics involved with the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

"I took a look at the infrastructure and thought, `This is way beyond us'," Maister said.

"I admire people with passion and vision, and people who want to make things happen, but my initial take is that a Winter Olympics Games for New Zealand is ambitious in the extreme."

Ullrich's aim was a "no-frills Games" in 2006, where competitors would be housed at Lincoln University, with some in "a sub-village" in the Wanaka area, close to skiing venues.

Coberger said Queenstown's 2009 Winter Games, one of the largest snow events outside the Olympics, was "just do-able".

The step up to a Winter Olympics was too large, he said.

"We'll just manage to run the Rugby World Cup, for which we really only have to build a few big stadiums."

"For a Winter Olympic Games you need specialised tracks, all of which need synthetic snow made now."

NZSki chief executive James Coddington, who attended last year's Vancouver Olympics, said it was an "ambitious" concept, but doubted it was feasible.

"It makes perfect sense, if we had the facilities to deliver such an event," he said.

"Just hosting the media alone would tie up most of the Christchurch accommodation, let alone the athletes and support crew," he said.

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Vancouver's Whistler ski area spent more than C$80 million (NZ$105m) developing a bobsleigh track.

"You've got a whole host of different events which we just don't currently have the facilities for," he said.

Maister said the cost would be "phenomenal", even just to make a bid.

"It's on a different scale to anything we do here, and we're a little country.

"I'm trying not to be sceptical here, but I just think, realistically, we're a long way from it."

- The Press

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