Friday, July 31, 2009

Stepping on the Wa-Wa pedal

The 2009 World Police and Fire Games begin July 31 in Vancouver. If you thought the guns and hoses games were just an excuse for police, firemen, customs agents, prison guards and paramedics to compete for bragging rights in dozens of sports, talk shop and drink Canadian beer, think again.

It will be a test event for the 2010 Winter Olympics in some security circles. United States authorities are taking it so seriously that they chose July 27 for Department of Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano to cut the ribbon at the US$4 million Olympic coordination centre at Bellingham International Airport. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and British Columbia Minster of State for Intergovernmental Relations Naomi Yamamoto joined the former Arizona governor on a tour of the communications nerve centre for 40 military, police and emergency services agencies.

The primary purpose of Yamamoto's trip was to plan the itinerary and agenda for the B.C. government's annual joint cabinet meeting with Washington's cabinet. Yamamoto said she didn't plan to discuss customs pre-clearance for Olympic ticketholders with Napolitano. Nor did she say she was would encourage Gregoire to make Washington a sponsor of VANOC.

“That's between VANOC and the government," said Yamamoto, a rookie North Vancouver Liberal legislator. "We would appreciate their support with sponsorship, but I'm not sure where that's at.”

By the way, it appears Washington State could be on its way to announcing sponsorship of VANOC. Or at least setting up a trade and tourism presence in the Olympic city at Games-time.

Washington Tourism launched an Olympic-themed website in July and has hired Edelman Public Relations. Since 1984, Edelman has serviced private and public clients at every Olympic Games.

Why do I think a significant announcement is forthcoming? Edelman Seattle is making an Olympian effort to shield its client -- a government body, no less -- from pesky reporters seeking interviews. Edelman's Vancouver office -- which handled British Columbia government promotions at Torino 2006 and Beijing 2008 -- is also working on the project.

Washington has waited until the summer before the Winter Games to get active. Gregoire signed a cross-border partnership with B.C. in 2005 and even set-up a state Olympic secretariat. Dave Guscott, VANOC executive vice-president of government relations, said July 15 that VANOC is seeking state sponsors. Better late than never.

Patrick Kinsella and Mark Jiles, friends of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, were once Olympic-focussed lobbyists for the State of Washington. There even was talk of the Olympic torch relay dipping below the border and an inukshuk and countdown clock for Seattle.

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