Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pavilion panoply

When the global economic crisis hit last fall, the promotional plans of Olympic sponsors were turned upside down.

Only Molson-Coors, Samsung and Coca-Cola, B.C. Lottery Corp., and Heineken have announced public pavilions so far. Governments, however, don't seem concerned about spending taxpayer dollars. In fact, the governments appear to be rescuing VANOC in a subtle way that will be not-so-subtle come February.

Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan will have pavilions on the old Expo 86 site, the northeast False Creek Concord Place. The Atlantic provinces are joining forces at the Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island. Manitoba will be at the EasyPark live site along with the Sept. 20-announced Canada Pavilion.

The Canadian Heritage ministry is spending $10 million on the tourism and trade exhibit. The last paragraph of the news release, however, says bids will soon open for designing, building and operating the pavilion. Hurry up, guys and gals, the opening ceremony is in less than five months! Seems like this was written on the back of a napkin by Gary Lunn, the junior minister for the Olympics.

Why do I say that? Not because of cynicism. As recently as July the federal government was studying the feasibility of an Olympic and Paralympic pavilion being part of a national tour hitting big domestic events. In fact, the feds are well-advanced in their planning for the Canada Pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo and renovations to make Trafalgar Square's Canada House embassy the Canada pavilion for London 2012.

In August, the B.C. government released a request for proposals for a B.C. Canada Pavilion in the fourth floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Victoria and Ottawa partnered on pavilions in Torino and Beijing. Problem is, there was previously no plan to do a joint B.C./Canada pavilion at Vancouver 2010 and the entire B.C. presence was supposed to fit in Robson Square. Renting space in VAG was not part of the plan.

Robson Square was simply to host the B.C. International Media Centre, B.C. Showcase, 2010 Commerce Centre and the GE Ice Plaza free skating rink. The list is right here. A pavilion, per se, was not part of the plans that were originally envisioned by B.C. 2010 Winter Games Secretariat CEO Annette Antoniak. She was suddenly replaced last January by Phil Steenkamp.

Apparently, Mr. Steenkamp has new ideas. Or perhaps someone in the Liberal government asked for the Secretariat to do more while VANOC and the local economy have to do with less from recession-hit, penny-pinching Olympic sponsors.

Maybe B.C.'s junior minister for the Olympics, Mary McNeil, has a pen and napkin just like Lunn's.

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