Saturday, November 15, 2008

Behold, the Millennium contract

Saturday, Nov. 15 (TODAY!) is local election day across British Columbia.
The central issue in the City of Vancouver race is the Olympic Village financing scandal. 
A secret meeting was held Oct. 14 by city council to approve a $100 million bailout for financially troubled Millennium Development. It would've stayed secret had it not been for the good luck and good work of the Globe and Mail newspaper.
While the NPA's Peter Ladner has the better credentials to be mayor, Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson is the likely victor. "Happy Planet Juice Man" Robertson's campaign strategists know the public doesn't like secret handouts amid a recession and that taxpayers are worried about a financial hangover from the Olympics. Ladner says there are legitimate reasons for civic real estate deals like this one to be negotiated in private. Record advance poll turnout means voters are passionate about the issue. 
But how did it start? 2010 Gold Rush has a Freedom of Information-released copy of the lease agreement of Aug. 31, 2006 obtained by the Work Less Party. Stories based on this document have appeared since early 2008 on Vancouver 24 hours, Business in Vancouver and Around the RingsCheck out the contract highlights here.
The Olympic Village public/private partnership is supposed to be substantially complete by Sept. 30, 2009 and handed over to VANOC by Nov. 1, 2009 for use by 2,800 athletes and officials during the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Wobbly cops

The World Police and Fire Games begin July 31, 2009 in Vancouver at B.C. Place Stadium.
Darts, golf, shooting, wrist wrestling, hockey, basketball and boxing are just some of the sports on the menu for the 10-day Pemberton to Chilliwack event.
There might be a campaign to add the new sport of .08 Blow.
B.C. media was abuzz with news in the last week of October that three police officers are under suspicion of drinking and driving:
RCMP Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson has a Jan. 15 promise to appear in court. He is under investigation after a motorcyclist died in an Oct. 25 Tsawwassen crash.
New Westminster Police Const. Tomi Hamner has a Dec. 17 promise to appear in court. She is under investigation after an Oct. 16 single-vehicle crash in North Vancouver involving a NWPD vehicle.
RCMP Cpl. Darren Baker goes on trial Feb. 3 in connection with a Dec. 15, 2007 incident.
Hamner and Baker are school liaisons. Robinson was part of the squad that is under investigation for the Taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport. He was transferred to the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit -- the RCMP led Olympic security detail.
The Dziekanski incident made global headlines. Why one of the cops from that incident would be shifted to V2010 ISU is a mystery. What kind of message is the RCMP trying to send the rest of the world invited to the Olympic province?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Prediction: No Fun Party wins Election 2008

Finally, the most important and least exciting election in Canadian history (until the next one) ends Tuesday.
Whatever happened to fun and frolic on the campaign trail? Remember Conservative Robert Stanfield's famous football fumble caught on film from 1974 or Grit John Turner patting posteriors of Liberal ladies in 1984?
Today’s campaigns are too stage-managed, but there were moments of levity in 2008.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper (yes, he does wear make-up to work every day) tried to show his casual side by taking off his Tory tie and feeding a baby at the Huang family residence in Richmond. It all looked semi-genuine until Harper walked up to the podium. Who keeps a podium in their backyard?
Liberal Stephane Dion's campaign took off and immediately went south in a 29-year-old gas-guzzling Boeing 737 leased from Air Inuit. So much for the Green Shift.
NDP leader Jack Layton promoted a new kind of strong, but weakness in candidate screening quickly became apparent. Two quit for smokin' doob on YouTube and another "kneedipper" was exposed as a skinnydipper. Oh, the humanity!
Then there's Green Party leader Elizabeth May. She ensured Sunday that she wouldn't become Ms. October when she put down the green flag and picked up a white one. The proponent of the single transferrable voting system urged Canadians to transfer their Tuesday vote to any candidate likely to beat a Tory.
Coalition-building on the eve of an election is bound to fail, just like last-minute shopping for Christmas presents at 7-Eleven.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Whalley 2010 Unpreparation Centre

If you're a citizen of Surrey, B.C., you might want to ask your mayor how city hall expects to break ground on its $10.5 million Games Preparation Centre construction project in Whalley sometime in mid-to-late November and then have it up and running for VANOC to use by the end of February.
The facility to train Olympic workers and volunteers and rehearse ceremonies was announced way back on May 26.
The proposed construction period falls on the part of the calendar with the least sunlight and worst weather. Oh, and there is also Christmas and New Year's holidays!
Surrey promised VANOC that it would have 5,500 square feet ready to occupy for Feb. 1, 2009, but Mayor Dianne Watts admitted last week that won't happen. Yet, there is a clause in the contract between Surrey and VANOC that allows VANOC the right to seek judicial relief without any defense by Surrey if any part of the contract is breached. Watts also admitted that clause stands as-is, without any amendment.
Is Watts a miracle worker or is she gambling her reputation and taxpayers' dollars?
Click on the images to read the relevant portions of the contract, obtained via Freedom of Information.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

With glowing hearts, we see fees rise

If you've got bad news to deliver, deliver it on a Friday night or a Saturday morning when nobody's around to ask or answer questions.
That's what VANOC did when it finally revealed the fine details of phase one of ticketing for the Canadian market, which runs Oct. 3-Nov. 7.
Service charges are $4 to $18 per ticket, which supposedly covers the cost of local public transit rides corresponding with the date of the event. (VANOC's $124.1 million transportation budget includes $52.3 million for bus systems.)
Mandatory bus tickets go on sale next year for mountain venues. It will cost an extra $25 for a round-trip ride from Vancouver to Whistler and $12 to Cypress Mountain. There is no public parking at any Games venues and VANOC is encouraging people not to drive so that athletes, VIPs and media can use the dedicated Olympic lane system without fear of traffic chaos.
In their Feb. 28 letter of understanding, VANOC and TransLink agreed to exclude the West Vancouver venue from the Metro Vancouver public transit system.
Visa is the only credit card accepted for the online purchasing process, which is coordinated by Tickets will be delivered in November 2009 via another VANOC sponsor, Purolator Courier. Ticket buyers will be dinged another $10 to $20 per account for the mandatory delivery fee.
For example, a $50 pair of tickets to women's hockey or cross-country skiing is $58 plus $10 (the under $100 handling levy) for a grand total of $68. That's a 26% markup!
VANOC set a $231.8 million target for ticket sales.

VANOC cruising to sponsorship target?

VANOC has but a few slots remaining open for potential sponsors of the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Hotels and cruise lines are two of them. The cruise ship slot could be filled Monday morning in an official supplier announcement coordinated by Hill and Knowlton, which recently installed VANOC director Ken Dobell as its chair of British Columbia operations. Beijing 2008 gold medal rower Kyle Hamilton along with VANOC CEO John Furlong are to speak at the 11 a.m. event. The president and CEO of the new sponsor is also to appear with the official supplier's 200 employees.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

VANOC's West Minist-error

VANOC recently embarked on a hiring spree for its communications department and it appears some of the new hires are not from British Columbia.
A news release was issued after 5 a.m. Sept. 25 to notify media that the "major milestone" announcement would happen at its Campus 2010 office headquarters at 9:30 a.m. The advisory lists several Olympic and Paralympic medalists who will attend what is expected to be the unveiling of the Games' slogan.
The first is Paralympic alpine skier "Daniel Wesley, West Minister, British Columbia."
His bio contains the same malapropism, but in the body it correctly reveals he is from the Vancouver suburb New Westminster.
New Westminster was the first capital of British Columbia from 1859 to 1868.
The B.C. Geographical Names database lists West Midway, West Milligan Creek and West Minton Creek. But no West Minister.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Get ready for the official slogan of the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and the advertising campaign that will tell it to the world.
VANOC has scheduled a 9:30 a.m. news conference on Sept. 25 in Vancouver with five Olympic and Paralympic medalists to help unveil the latest "milestone" on the road to 2010.
The timing is right because special advertorial supplements are slated for Sept. 27 editions of the Globe and Mail and Canwest-owned metropolitan daily newspapers. Both companies are VANOC sponsors. It's all part of the countdown to the Oct. 3 launch of Olympic ticketing.
Vancouver-based Hyphen Communications created the ad campaign, which was approved by VANOC's board at its Sept. 17 closed-door meeting. Creative director David Martin was not available when I called on Sept. 24.
Celebrate the Possible has been the de facto mantra of VANOC for two years and could remain so from Thursday onward. However, Vancouver law firm Borden Ladner Gervais applied to trademark With Glowing Hearts on VANOC's behalf Sept. 12.
With Glowing Hearts is a line from O Canada.
If it is the new slogan, it is in keeping with federal government policy. The minority Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper replaced its Canada's New Government slogan with The True North Strong and Free (also an O Canada lyric) when it realized that the 2006-elected government was no longer new.
The slogan is the verbal identity of the Games. Torino 2006 used Passion Lives Here and Beijing 2008 was One World, One Dream.
On the other side of the five-ring fence, anti-Olympics activists already have a slew of slogans, such as No Olympics on Stolen Native Land and Homes Not Games.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wrigley chews into VANOC

The maker of Hubba Bubba, Big League Chew, Altoids and Lifesavers will become the newest VANOC sponsor on July 24 at a Toronto news conference. Wrigley will become an official supplier in the $3 million to $15 million range. Last year, VANOC had advertised for confectionery licensees. 
Wrigley's worldwide headquarters are Chicago, which is bidding to host the 2016 Summer Games.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

VANOC to reveal more secrets?

The most exclusive club in the province -- the VANOC board of directors -- meets July 16 behind closed doors at so-called Fortress 2010 in East Vancouver. A noon-hour news conference could yield new information on the site of Vancouver 2010's anti-doping laboratory and a potential solution to the controversial proposal to use Britannia Ice Rink near politically charged Commercial Drive for hockey training. Click here for the agenda.
VANOC does not publish minutes, though it does issue a news release summary. It also won't disclose which directors, executives, staffers and guests attend meetings.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cheque in the mail

Canada Post is the newest VANOC sponsor, pledging $3 million on July 3 to be an official supplier for the 2010 Games.
A week earlier, Canadians learned the federal Crown corporation wanted to increase the price of stamps from 52 cents to 54 cents in 2009 and then by 2 more cents in 2010 and 2011.
Canada Post began preparing for 2010 in July 2003 when it hyped a special edition stamp commemorating Vancouver's bid win. The underwhelming 48-cent domestic envelope-sticker showed Canada Post's Ottawa headquarters with Vancouver 2010 printed below.
In February, Postal Inspector in Charge Jag Sumra prepared a "Confidential Doucment (sic) Executive Briefing Note on 2010 Integrated Security Planning. Before it was made available via Access to Information, the 25-page document was heavily censored.
If it wasn't riddled with blacked-out paragraphs or entire pages blanked, then we might know more about hints from the table of contents, like: general vulnerability/security assessment, internal and external threats, safety and security of the mail, Canada Post facilities and equipment, VIP protection for Canada Post executives, communications and information sharing, airport security, business continuity planning, security and investigation services, and action plan.
A two-page list of 20 Olympic venue sites remains intact. The sites, expected to be behind security fences, will get special delivery arrangements. The Westin Bayshore, the IOC's hotel, is on the list, along with all competition and training venues. VANOC's Graveley Street offices, however, are not.

Surrey's 2010 contract revealed

Does Surrey need to spend $10.5 million on a new 21,000 square foot community centre in the Whalley ghetto for the VANOC Games Preparation Centre? 
That's a question Surrey residents ought to ask Mayor Dianne Watts. 
The May 26 venue city agreement between Surrey and VANOC -- obtained via Freedom of Information -- says VANOC needs just 5,500 square feet, which is slightly less than the floorspace in the Tom Binnie recreation centre that Watts and co. want to replace. The new facility is proposed to be built from scratch on a vacant lot next door. If it's not ready by Feb. 1, 2009, then VANOC can seek "judicial relief" via clause 13 in which Surrey waived the right to a defense. 
Other highlights:
  • Surrey's $2 million payment to VANOC was due June 30.
  • Surrey can buy tickets at face value and in priority to retail, including 50 for each of the opening and closing ceremonies, an average of 10 per day to prime events like hockey playoffs, figure skating, speedskating and gold medal curling and an average of 50 per day to all other sports. Tickets are for internal use only and resale at face value is only allowed via VANOC's ticket exchange program.
  • Surrey may nominate up to five torchbearers (subject to VANOC approval) to carry the flame "within or in close proximity to the venue city."
  • Use of the VANOC photo bank and image archive, street banners and signage, advertising space on billboards near competition venues and space in publications will cost extra.
  • And, despite sponsors of all stripes being called "partners," clause 11 is titled Agreement Not a Partnership.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Vancouver's hopes extinguished

The June 24 announcement of the cancelation of the international Paralympic torch relay was especially disappointing for Vancouver.
Unlike the other stops in Sochi, Russia and London, Vancouver was needing the global spotlight on Aug. 28 and Whistler on Aug. 29. The event would have allowed Vancouver to welcome the world to the next Olympics in 2010; when the Beijing Games end Aug. 24, most will only know that London is the 2012 host. It would also have afforded Vancouver a chance at a dress rehearsal for the 2010 torch relay that will begin in November 2009.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The British came, the British came

London 2012 minister Tessa Jowell visited the land of 2010 from June 16-19. 
Like all politicians clutching the Olympics portfolio, she echoed the familiar "on-budget, on-time" refrain -- despite unrest back home where new London mayor Boris Johnson called for more transparency and frugality. 
Unlike Vancouver, which is doing little to resurrect the Downtown Eastside ghetto, the new Olympic Park in East London will be a legacy. 
“It will be an extraordinarily proud legacy for the Olympics to say we created jobs, homes, the largest urban park in Europe for 150 years in what has been an area of dereliction,” Jowell said.
B.C. and U.K. forged an Olympic economic development pact earlier this year. The two jurisdictions are no stranger to each other. Britain colonized Canada’s west coast in 1858. British Columbia became Canada’s sixth province in 1871. Vancouver hosted the 1954 British Empire Games. Victoria, the provincial capital, did the same 40 years later when it was called the Commonwealth Games.
Joining Jowell on the trade mission were: Andrew Bacchus, head of the construction, sports and leisure infrastructure sector for UK Trade and Investment; Andrew Eborn, CEO of Octopus TV; Anita Patel, director of Tania Taipei; Alphus Hinds, senior director of Olympics and major events for Smith's Detection International; Dave Crump and Curt Petty, business development directors of Avesco, and Ian Druce of Steer Davies Gleave.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

London Calling

The British are coming! The British are coming!
Well, at least the United Kingdom minister responsible for London 2012 Tessa Jowell and several businesspeople from Blighty.
Jowell arrives June 15 and stays until June 19 to tour 2010 venues in Vancouver and Whistler and meet with VANOC executives and politicians.

Public meetings on Britannia and life in 2010

June 11 at Britannia Centre. 6 p.m. The Britannia board meets again to discuss the controversial proposal to let VANOC use Britannia Arena for Olympic hockey practice in 2010. A vote is unlikely before a proposal from VANOC and the City of Vancouver is received and questions about costs and security are answered.
June 18 at Richmond city hall (6:30 p.m.), June 19 at Hastings Park community centre (6:30 p.m.) and June 24 at Riley Park community centre (6:30 p.m.) are stops on VANOC's Game Plan 2008 tour, which is supposed to be a preview of how the Games will impact citizens' lives in February 2010. 
All are open to the public. 
Come with questions. Demand to leave with answers. Or stay quiet now and complain to yourself in 2010. 

Monday, June 9, 2008

NDP takes aim at Kinsella, Jiles

B.C. NDP attorney general critic Leonard Krog and federal NDP Olympics critic Peter Julian have blown the whistle on two of Premier Gordon Campbell's closest allies. 
"When Washington State went looking for a piece of the Olympic pie, it hired none other than Gordon Campbell insiders, Patrick Kinsella and Mark Jiles, to lobby the federal minister (David Emerson)," Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian said in Question Period on June 9. "There is only one problem -- they are not registered to lobby, which means it is illegal for them to lobby." 
Kinsella masterminded B.C. Liberal election victories in 2001 and 2005. Jiles managed Campbell's successful Vancouver-Point Grey campaign in 2005. In 2006, their Progressive Group scored a gig with the State of Washington to lobby key Olympic decision-makers, including cabinet ministers and VANOC executives, and find Olympic-related contracts for Washington companies.
Jiles boasted in one document that Progressive had "an office in the heart of Vancouver, a hand in British Columbia's provincial capital of Victoria and a foot into the 2010 Organizing Committee." 
Julian asked federal lobbyists' registrar Michael Nelson to investigate. Krog did the same provincially with B.C.'s information and privacy commissioner David Loukidelis. Jiles told 24 hours Vancouver that Progressive's work was simply "sports marketing."
Read more about this, including the scandalous Washington State documents, on Victoria journalist Sean Holman's Public Eye blog.


VANOC associate on trial

The Crown's case against VANOC Four Host First Nations executive director Tewanee Joseph and his lacrosse buddy Bobby Bell began to unravel on June 6 when defence lawyer Greg McDade cross-examined key witness/complainant Susan Soloman. Proceedings in the mischief and
threats matter are supposed to conclude on June 12. Read all about it here.

Sully soaked in pour protest

A majority of NPA members raised a glass for Coun. Peter Ladner when he won the party's mayoral nomination on June 8. Someone poured a soft drink pitcher on lame-duck Mayor Sam Sullivan.
Undercover Vancouver Police officers arrested a woman at the Marriott Pinnacle Hotel nomination meeting, but the sleuths are apparently confused about the watery weapon.
A VPD news release on June 9 stated the pitcher contained "iced tea or coke."
C'mon fellas, you'll have to be more specific when 21-year-old Megan Craig of the notorious Anti-Poverty Committee appears in court on assault charges.
She was among those arrested during the sparsely attended Feb. 12, 2007 Omega countdown clock unveiling at Vancouver Art Gallery.

Hockey Night in Canada theme going to the Olympics

CTV made a substantial free agent signing June 9 after CBC failed to ink a new deal with the Hockey Night in Canada theme. 
The composition of ex-Vancouverite Dolores Claman was acquired in a Monday deal. CBC talks with Claman's agent John Ciccone broke down June 6. 
CTV now owns the 40-year-old instrumental, which will be heard on TSN and RDS coverage of National Hockey League games and during the 2010 Games' hockey tournament. CTV has Canadian rights to broadcast the 2010 Games. 

Sunday, June 8, 2008

So long, Sully

Mayor Sam Sullivan has had his 15 minutes of Olympic fame. He won't be giving away the Olympic flag to the mayor of Sochi, Russia on Feb. 28, 2010. That's because Coun. Peter Ladner won the Non-Partisan Association mayoralty nomination on June 8, 1,066-986. (For non-Vancouverites, the NPA is the unparty. It's a coalition of provincial and federal Liberals and Conservatives.)
Early in Sullivan's term, he accepted the Olympic flag at the Torino 2006 closing ceremony and did a donut in his electric wheelchair on live international TV. 
It was a flawless performance, but the same couldn't be said for his mayoralty. Sullivan said he was concerned with the plight of the city's homeless, but did little to solve the blight that is the Downtown Eastside ghetto. Ultimately, it was his stubborn, "I won't blink first" stance that prolonged a civic workers' strike in summer and fall of 2007 that was the beginning of the end for Sullivan. 
With Sullivan rolling into the sunset, what will become of supporter Jeff Mooney's spot on the VANOC board of directors? 
Vancouverites go to the polls on Nov. 15. Ladner's main challenger from the left-of-centre Vision Vancouver Party will be either Coun. Raymond Louie or NDP MLA Gregor Robertson. 

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shh! Torch and motto OK, but still secret

The International Olympic Committee executive board approved the motto and torch design for the 2010 Games on June 5 in Athens.
"We are not at a stage where we can share them publicly," said VANOC CEO John Furlong in a prepared statement.
Hints are already out there. Such as the Celebrate the Possible slogan VANOC has employed for two years. Or the Richmond Oval art plan document, which called the traditional Musqueam First Nation canoe paddle "a strong candidate for the basic form of the 2010 Olympic torch."
Meanwhile, VANOC did finally reveal that Garrett Metal Detectors would supply 550 walk-through and 1,100 wand units for the Games' airport-style security checkpoints at venues. 
Garrett vice-president Henry Tellez told me in April that the equipment is worth $4 million.

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