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Prestigious international championships will cost about $20 million to stage.

Prestigious international championships will cost city about $20 million to stage

After years of trying, Thunder Bay has finally landed the 1995 Nordic World Ski Championships.

It will be the first time the event has been held in Canada, and the first in North America in more than 40 years.

About 370 athletes from between 27 and 30 countries will be competing in the games which are held every two years.

Events include ski jumping, men's cross-country, women's cross-country, Nordic combined and the biathlon.

Allan Laakkonen, chairman of the bid committee, says the championship will cost about $20 million to stage. Half of that amount will be spent on capital projects and the rest on operating expenses.

The bid committee spent about $426,000 just to attract the games.

Major commitments include $6.1 million for cross-country trails and facility development, a permanent media centre and a stadium, $2.2 million to enhance the 120-metre and 90-metre ski-jumping facilities and $2.9 million for Nordic combined support facilities.

The funding for the games is coming from a number of sources, including $5 million from the province, $2 million from the federal government and $1.8 million from the city.

Television will also generate another $1 million. Broadcasts will go across Canada and into the United States, Europe and Japan, depending on the deals that still have to be worked out.

A marketing contract has a minimum guarantee of $3.2 million.

At the 1989 championships in Finland the marketing contract generated $6 million in revenue.

Laakkonen says the rest of the money will come from fundraising efforts.

"Certainly we're going to break even," he says. Any excess funds will go into a trust account.

"The economic impact on the city is approximately $37 million," adds Laakkonen. "That's, I think, a conservative estimate."

He suggests that the benefits could be as much as $60 million, depending on a number of factors.

Mayor Jack Masters is a little less optimistic about the financial benefit to the city. "We're estimating an economic impact of up to $34 million."

However, Masters sees the Nordic games as an important symbol of a new attitude of self-confidence in the city.

"I can't envision us 15 years ago bidding for the games," he says. "If there is one common denominator in Northern Ontario it is that we sell ourselves short."

However, Masters believes Northern Ontario's self-confidence is improving as people realize that the region has clean air, affordable housing and a good lifestyle.

"We have to stop saying we're not as good as the rest of the world," Masters adds. "In most cases, we're better."

Laakkonen says the city had been working to get the games since 1983, before being successful in May.

Five cities, including cities in Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia and Norway, were competing against Thunder Bay.

Thunder Bay presented its first bid in 1985, notes Laakkonen, "and got blown out of the water."

In 1988 the city again submitted a bid and lost to a Swedish city by three votes.

Presentations are made to the International Ski Federation, which has 52 member nations.

"The name of the city is certainly known internationally," Laakkonen observes.

Thunder Bay's fame has also grown with the success of favorite son Steve Collins in ski jumping.

The number of events held at Big Thunder also helped influence the decision. The city has hosted five Nordic combined events and 10 World Cup ski jumping events.

"For a large part that was a reason for our success," Laakkonen says.

The International Ski Federation was impressed with the quality of competition held in Thunder Bay. The fact that the city has never had to cancel an event was another positive factor.

Other considerations were the site's close proximity to the city, the fact that all venues will be held at the same site and that accommodation in Thunder Bay is reasonably priced.

There is also the ready availability of 400 to 600 experienced volunteers. In all, about 2,500 volunteers will be required for the championships.

The city also had experience in gathering volunteers for the 1981 Canada games.

"Once something like this happens, they really get behind it," says Laakkonen.

For the championships the Big Thunder site will be expanded to include new viewing areas, a state-of-the-art media centre and an enlarged administrative centre.

The event will attract about 1,200 members of the media from Europe, Japan, the United States and Canada.

PRESTIGIOUS GAMES

"The athletes, from what we're told, hold these championships in higher regard than the Olympics," Laakkonen says.

He notes that, with Toronto unsuccessful in its attempt to attract the 1996 Olympics, the Nordic games will be the major sporting event in Canada this decade.

Laakkonen says there is widespread support for the games. That support was substantiated by a survey conducted in the city.

"The reading we got was about 85 per cent support it," he reports.

He also believes that the games will be well attended.
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Title Annotation:Thunder Bay Report; Nordic World Ski Championships
Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:830
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