Thursday, February 11, 2010

IOC at the QET

The most exclusive event in the Olympic city on Feb. 9 was the opening ceremony of the International Olympic Committee's 122nd session at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

The cultural component, a Canadian Welcome, included the Aliqua women’s vocal group performing the Olympic anthem, Langley Ukelele Ensemble doing What a Wonderful World, Circus West acrobats and Marianas Trench, a pop-punk band that had some IOC members bobbing their heads, but a few plugging their ears. Unfortunately the show relied on lip-synching and performers were not introduced before or after their number.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell offered the opening remarks of the Patrick Roberge-produced event.
Sponsors and government partners and VANOC executives joined the IOC at the Queen E. Canadian Olympic Committee president Mike Chambers, VANOC CEO John Furlong and IOC president Jacques Rogge all spoke. Furlong was given an immediate standing ovation by most of the crowd. Many in the IOC section in the centre orchestra seating were slow to get up or didn't bother. Rogge remarked that Furlong had a standing ovation and the Games had not even begun.

Afterward, the adjacent Four Host First Nations’ Chiefs’ House was used for overflow where Canada's Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean held court.

Among those spotted at the post-event reception were Vancouver Olympic Village developers Shahram Malekyazdi and Peter Malek, B.C. finance minister and former Olympics minister Colin Hansen, B.C. Pavilion Corporation chairman David Podmore, Canadian Olympic team Dr. Bob McCormack, former Canadian Olympic Committee vice-president Bob Hindmarch, Prince of Orange of Netherlands, International Triathlon Union founder Les McDonald, Easton sporting goods’ founder Jim Easton, Arthur Griffiths and Francesco Aquilini. Charmaine Crooks, the 1984 silver medal sprinter, introduced me to Prince Albert of Monaco, who is officially known as the Serene Highness. It's not false advertising. A pleasant, serene fella you'd never guess is an aristocrat or former Olympic bobsledder. We chatted about the famed St. Moritz track in Switzerland that I visited in November and he actually took a run on last month.

Griffiths is the ex-owner of the Vancouver Canucks and General Motors Place who led the domestic bid for the 2010 Games that beat out Calgary and Quebec City in 1998. Aquilini bought half of the Vancouver Canucks and General Motors Place from John McCaw in 2005 and gained the rest in a subsequent transaction.

Also spotted was Vic Poleschuk, who was fired in 2007 from the presidency of the B.C. Lottery Corporation after the B.C. Ombudsman issued a report highly critical of the Crown corporation for lax security, including lottery wins by retailers. BCLC is a Vancouver 2010 sponsor, but the deal it made with VANOC won't let it offer odds on Olympic hockey games. So anyone who really feels the need to gamble on the Games will place a bet on websites that are technically illegal under Canada's Criminal Code. Good job, VANOC.

The IOC members were whisked back to the Westin Bayshore Hotel via two Cherrey Motor Coaches from Drayton, Ont. and a Brewster bus from Banff, Alta. The Brewster bus idled for several minutes outside the civic theatre.

IOC members got down to business Feb. 10 at the Bayshore and chose Nanjing, China over Poznan, Poland 47 votes to 42 to host the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games. The first Youth Games are in Singapore Aug. 14-26.

Lee Kun-Hee made his first appearance in an IOC session since being readmitted on Feb. 7 by the executive board. Lee, the former head of Samsung, was sentenced to three years after a tax evasion conviction. He was pardoned so that he could make a bid to return to the upper ranks of the IOC and promote the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games bid.

PyeongChang was the runner-up when Vancouver was chosen for 2010 on July 2, 2003. PyeongChang also lost to Sochi 2014 when voting was held in 2007.

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