Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Want Olympic tickets? Join the government

VANOC sold $94.7 million of tickets during last fall’s Canadian ticketing phase. More go on sale June 6. Just how many were available then or will be available in June is a closely guarded secret.

VANOC has deliberately put the focus on nabbing scalpers. But tens of thousands of tickets worth millions of dollars are being bought with your tax dollars for use by politicians and bureaucrats. Slowly, but surely, some of those governments are ‘fessing up on how many they’re buying.

City of Richmond disclosed at its April 5 meeting that it ordered 732 tickets for $196,990 and it assumes half the cost will be recovered through sales to the city’s 2010 partners, such as Tourism Richmond, Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the School Board.

City of Vancouver voted March 24 to spend $340,000 on 1,700 tickets, with the assumption that the net cost to taxpayers will be $217,000. In January, the city’s acting Freedom of Information clerk Chris Shin told me that she had 17 pages of Specialty Client Ticket Request documents and she wasn’t giving me any of them. She was kind enough to omit “nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah” from her letter.

Yes, that's the same City of Vancouver that Mayor Gregor Robertson rules. That's the same Mayor Gregor Robertson who promised openness and accountability when he was sworn in last December. "When the city uses your money, you have a right to know where it’s being spent, and what it’s being used for," he said.

Richmond and Vancouver claim they need to buy so many tickets so they can host 1,600 international and domestic dignitaries.

According to its May 26 Venue City Contribution Agreement, Surrey can buy 50 tickets to the opening ceremony and 50 tickets to the closing ceremony plus an average 60 tickets per day, including 10 to prime access events like hockey playoffs and figure skating. That’s a total of 1,120 tickets. Whistler is even more secretive. It dealt with ticket purchases at a closed-door meeting.

BC Hydro and ICBC, both Crown corporation sponsors of VANOC, won’t say how much they spent. But they did say how many they ordered after my FOI request.

BC Hydro got 1,520 tickets to 43 events. ICBC got 2,264 to 56 events. The costs were almost entirely censored, except for one entry that showed “icky-bicky” bought 134 tickets for Feb. 21, 2010 at a cost of $19,090.

My calculator says if ICBC spent $19,090 every day of the Games, the bill would be $324,530.

Appeals seeking full and complete disclosure from Vancouver, ICBC and BC Hydro have been filed with the Office of the Freedom and Information Commissioner in Victoria.

Meanwhile, Tourism British Columbia allowed all regular employees who were successful in buying tickets in last fall's public phase to apply for a six-month, no-interest loan of $500 to $4,000. Still no word from the Crown corporation on how many employees applied and how much dough was doled out.

No comments:

Blog Archive