Friday, October 29, 2010

Five-ring disappearing act continues


There are even more signs of Vancouver's fading Olympic glow after the mid-October removal of the Omega Countdown Clock from the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza.

VANOC, or what's left of it, is packing up and moving out of Campus 2010 (above). Graham Construction is already on-site to convert the two civic-owned office buildings into the new home of the Vancouver Police Department. The city paid $24 million in 2005 to buy the complex after VANOC begged city hall for help.

VANOC, I was surprised to learn, got a five-month rent holiday. It secretly sold the City of Vancouver its head office furniture and various pieces of IT equipment for $2.3 million in a Jan. 31, 2010 contract that came after a Jan. 8, 2010 in-camera report to city council.

The whole package, VANOC claimed, was originally worth $9 million. Not a bad deal to get such a discount, but what about announcing the transaction to the taxpayers? I scoured council agendas and minutes and saw no reference to what's essentially another bailout for cash-strapped VANOC. City manager Penny Ballem (who doubles as a VANOC director) didn't respond with any comment.

The future consideration in this trade was a five-month lease extension for free. VANOC was originally supposed to hit the road May 31, but instead doesn't have to disappear until Hallow'een.

Abracadabra, VANOC will magically reappear somewhere in downtown Vancouver on Nov. 1. The notoriously secretive organization won't tell me where it's going.

"In fact, there are very few people now communicating with VANOC as almost all of the accounts have been closed," said vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade. "John (McLaughlin, chief financial officer) and his team are ensuring that those who need to know how to reach VANOC are aware."

My guess? Somewhere paid for with your tax dollars. I'll report it when I know it because you have a right to know.

Meanwhile on Cypress Mountain. Yes, the troublesome snowboarding and freestyle skiing venue thanks to El Nino.

The snow cannons are poised for freezing temperatures to make snow and get the 2010-2011 season underway. But it'll be without a snowboarding halfpipe. The site of American Shaun White's gold medal performance for the ages is gone. So is the daredevil jump at the climax of the snowboardcross and skicross course. That's where North Shore boarder Maelle Ricker was the first Canadian woman to win gold on home snow. She did so in the shadow of a set of green Olympic rings perched on Black Mountain.

Guess what? They're not there anymore. But you won't have to look far. They're now across from the Cypress lodge's front door, closer to Mount Strachan where no Olympic events took place (below). Sure, it'll be more accessible for tourists with cameras, but the rings would have been better left on the former field of play.

In case you're wondering, the piles of straw are not left over from the Olympics. They are part of a Hollywood North film shoot called Final Destination 5. There are, however, small quantities of straw still visible around Cypress that are remnants of the 1,000 bales imported from Oregon and Washington before the Games. Before the Games, VANOC staff at Cypress witnessed mice scurry out of the delivery trucks!


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