Thursday, July 22, 2010

IOC liberates VANOC ticket numbers from virtual wait room

Premier Gordon Campbell and his red-ink mittens on NBC's Today Show at Grouse Mountain.

We know that Simon Ammann of Switzerland won the first gold medal of the Games Feb. 13 in ski jumping on the normal hill with a top distance of 108 metres.

We know that Canada's Sidney Crosby scored the winning 3-2 goal 7:40 into sudden-death overtime to beat the United States, end the Olympic competition and give the host nation a record 14th gold medal on Feb. 28.

We know the United States had the most medals overall with 37. We know Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjorgen's three gold, one silver and one bronze was the biggest individual medal haul of Vancouver 2010.

Now we're beginning to know more about the financial state of VANOC, the Games organizing committee which incorrectly assumed in its own business plan that a recession would not happen through the Games.

Until now, VANOC has kept secret how many tickets were sold and for how much. For those of us seeking that information, it's been like an extended stay in the dreaded VANOC/ virtual waiting room.

The International Olympic Committee's Vancouver 2010 marketing report was quietly published July 6 and it revealed 1.49 million of 1.54 million available tickets were sold for a total $257 million. That's about $3.4 million shy of the VANOC forecast, but not including tickets for the Paralympics or Cultural Olympiad.

Even on the last day of the Games, VANOC claimed "1.6 million tickets available for the 2010 Winter Games."

VANOC chief financial officer John McLaughlin denied he knew ticket sales information when he was interviewed July 9 (about the British Columbia government's $50 million direct bailout), but he reluctantly agreed July 20 that the IOC numbers are accurate.

VANOC is operating under what amounts to a financial information blackout. Its last financial report release was Dec. 21, 2009 and it decided -- without telling the media -- that it would not release another until late fall 2010 after the audit of its results for the year ending July 31, 2010.

Because of that, VANOC is violating the agreement that defined the responsibilities of the organizing committee and funding governments before the bid was won. The 2002 Multiparty Agreement's sections 4.4 and 26 said the organizing committee would issue reports after each quarter. No exceptions.

Interesting that the pact was made in 2002. That was also the year of the Salt Lake Games. In June 2002 -- just three months after the Olympic flame was extinguished in Utah -- the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's financial information was published in the IOC's own Marketing Matters newsletter.

SLOC earned US$183 million when it sold 1,525,118 of the 1,605,524 tickets available to the Games.

Where Vancouver beat Salt Lake clearly was in the category of potential TV audience. In 2002 it was 2.1 billion. Even Turin 2006 estimated 3.1 billion people had access to television coverage of the Games. By 2010, it ballooned to 3.8 billion. During the Games, IOC marketing director Timo Lumme said: "From a global perspective we would expect that around 3.5 billion people -- over half the population of the world -- will have watched some coverage of the Games."

That 3.5 billion figure has since been constantly quoted by Premier Gordon Campbell -- the one with the red mittens. The Vancouver 2010 Marketing Report discloses a more modest 1.8 billion actual viewership.

The key word is actual.

By comparison, the Beijing 2008 Summer Games had a potential reach of 4.3 billion with an actual audience estimated at 3.5 billion, according to IOC spokesman Benjamin Seeley.

"The measurement (estimation) of actual audience reach has been adopted since Beijing 2008, while previously it was measured (estimated) as Cumulative Global Audience (in billions) and cumulative global viewing hours (in billions)," Seeley said. "The reason being we think it is a more realistic and informative approach to measure actual audience with average minute rating (AMR).

"These figures are TV only, as currently we aren't able to measure Internet and television separately on a global basis."

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