Monday, August 31, 2009

Welcome to the Blunderdome

Those that work in Vancouver's Olympic stadium don't call it the Blunderdome for no reason.

B.C. Place Stadium is a well-documented dangerous workplace. A janitor collapsed on the job and died later in hospital. Her death was covered up for almost two years!

Now the government is getting cold feet about the $365 million plan for pre-Olympic renovations and a post-Olympic replacement of the air-supported fabric roof with a retractable system. This type of roof-swap has never been done anywhere. If it goes ahead, is completed on-time and on-budget, it will be an engineering marvel.

If it fails, it will be the west coast equivalent of Montreal's Olympic stadium.

The Liberal government led by Premier Gordon Campbell has been a promoter of public/private partnerships and privatization. While cutting back on schools and hospitals in a recession, Campbell has suddenly realized taxpayers may not want their dollars spent on a publicly owned stadium. Has a P3 or privatization been contemplated? No public statements were made to that effect by Campbell or B.C. Pavilion Corporation. In fact, the business plan and funding formula for this whole project have never been released. Here's what the government told me when I asked for a copy.

Don't taxpayers have the right to know how the government is managing public assets and spending public money?

But, imagine if you will, that a business plan and funding formula do not exist. Is this the only guide for the most-expensive renovation of a public building in this province's history?

Minister responsible Kevin Krueger, B.C. Pavilion Corporation CEO Warren Buckley and B.C. Place general manager Howard Crosley have ignored my interview requests.

This building is supposed to be the most important and famous stadium on the planet when the 2010 Winter Olympics open Feb. 12 and close Feb. 28.

Surely the International Olympic Committee should be concerned at least about the stadium's sorry record for workplace safety. Surely it should be pushing for improvement. It would be a black mark on the Games if a worker, volunteer, spectator, athlete or -- gasp -- a VIP or IOC member is hurt because of the negligent or incompetent activities that seem to be ingrained in the stadium's culture.

I asked Games' executive director Gilbert Felli on Aug. 26 in a news conference. His response? “We cannot comment on your assessment of local issues here.”

Apparently the IOC has its "eyes wide shut."

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