Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Twenty questions for Vancouver 2010

An open letter to the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games:

As you fade away, after claiming a balanced $1.884 billion budget, I thought I would mark the occasion with 20 questions. This is not a game, but a last-ditch attempt to get answers. You see, the more you've tried to stonewall me and lead me astray over the years, the more determined I get. VANOC has proven time and again that its priority is to protect information, rather than share it. It doesn't have to be this way and it's not too late to be informative.

So, I have 20 more questions after the Dec. 17, 2010 news conference at the BC Hydro Customer Centre (right). Please answer to the best of your ability (and I know you are able):

1 - Why did it take so long to publish this 28-page financial report? Salt Lake 2002 organizers did their first report two months after their Games ($40 million profit). Expo 86 finances were released just over a month after the Fair ended ($349 million deficit).

2 - Why were no quarterly reports issued between Dec. 21, 2009 and Dec 17, 2010, after the organization dutifully adhered to the pledge of quarterly disclosures in the 2002 Multiparty Agreement and the May 2007 promise to citizens that the organization would be transparent?

3 - Why all the shoddy editing? Sponsor Millennium Development is referred to as "Millenium." B.C. Lottery Corporation is called "B.C. Lotteries Corporation." Jet Set Sports is called “JetSet Sports.” Certainly the correct spellings of those companies would have been boldly printed on the cheques they sent you for their sponsorship fees and ticket purchases. Assuming, of course, Millennium sent cheques and they were honoured.

4 - Why are the names of directors and senior managers missing from the report? It’s standard for an annual report to include at least the names of the board chairman and chief executive. The VANOC report doesn’t even mention Rusty Goepel or John Furlong.

Your sponsors make sure their shareholders know who is making the decisions. For example: Teck, who provided the metal for the Olympic and Paralympic medals, has a group photo of its directors on page 26 of its 2009 report, followed by brief bios.

Bombardier, who made the Olympic and Paralympic torches, lists directors, committee rosters and senior management on page 207 of its 2009-2010 annual report. The directors’ photos and short bios are on pages 20 and 21. Vancouver International Airport Authority’s board roster is on page 66 of its 2009 report, but it also does a Governance Report. Hey, there’s a certain director-at-large named Ruston Goepel whose term expires in 2010.

Those are just three examples. By not listing your names, you only breed suspicion. But if the Olympics were as successful as you’d like us to believe, they’d have certainly been there, right?

5 - Before noon on April 4, 2010, there was a paper-shredding truck number 533 from Shred-It in your parking lot, next to the low-rise building's entrance. Click the photo to the right to enlarge. What records were being picked up for shredding? VANOC, we know, was not subject to Freedom of Information or Document Retention statutes.

6 - After the B.C. Place Stadium opening and closing ceremonies, the attendance provided reporters who asked was 55,000 to 60,000. Why then only 87,769 total tickets sold for the shows?

7 - You sold 642,223 hockey tickets for $111.9 million. You scored! How many of those were in luxury suites? Because of the recession, you had a hard time selling what you thought would be an easy sell and there were bargains. A box that holds 20 people was going for $2,800 and up. You even published the price list.

8 - Salt Lake 2002 organizers disclosed the full attendance sport-by-sport. The grand total was 1,525,118 tickets sold. Will you kindly tell us how many tickets were sold for each sport or at each venue? We know hockey, but you haven’t told us about figure skating, short-track speedskating, long-track speedskating, curling, snowboarding, freestyle skiing, alpine skiing, ski jumping, cross-country skiing, nordic combined, bobsled, skeleton and luge.

9 - The British Columbia and federal governments gave $187.8 million to VANOC operations. When the business plan was published May 8, 2007, John Furlong said clearly: "The $1.63 billion Games operating budget is funded entirely by the private sector, it is not funded by the taxpayers... and although we're projecting a balanced budget I think we all hope that we will leave a positive financial legacy." Relive the moments Furlong said that in the video below.

There is no "positive financial legacy" - aka "profit - but do tell us when the government bailout began. You really did need it because the May 2007 business plan incorrectly assumed "the Canadian economy will remain relatively strong, with no recession, through Games time."

What is the full and complete tally for all payments made by all government partners, including tickets, advertising, etc.? There were five municipal, nine provincial and three territorial partners.

10 - The $50 million increase in the transportation budget to $173.5 million was poorly blamed on changes in accounting. Yet I see the same language in the May 2007 business plan that I see now in the final report. Bus systems cost $92.6 million after a lengthy dispute with Gameday Management Group was finally resolved in mediation in early November. Was the cost of transportation underestimated in 2007?

11 - The Sustainability Report tells us that the posting of the ethics commissioner's final report to the VANOC website didn't happen because the website is no longer being updated. Could you send a news release via Canada Newswire, post one on 2010 Legacies Now or inform the media on your list about this report?

12 - The Sustainability Report says on page 33: “VANOC required that all directors file, at least annually, a Declaration of Interest by Directors. Senior managers were also required to file such documentation, only once, in 2008, though with a requirement that they proactively update their original filing if their circumstances changed.”

On page 35 it says: “Survey of senior management regarding compliance completed in Q4 2009 for report to audit committee on December 14, 2009. On May 31, 2010, final survey completed with remaining senior managers for report to audit committee at its meeting in early June 2010.

"Declarations of Interest by Directors completed in 2009; exceptions included two directors, whose declarations were received in 2010. VANOC’s procurement team was provided with updates about entities in which directors declared an interest.”

Could you please tell us about the directors, management and the entities in which they have interest? The London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority, which fulfills a function similar to VANOC, posts what's called a "register of interests" on its website below the biography of each director.

13 - The Sustainability Report stops at April 30, 2010, yet major environmental works were continuing at venues into the summer. The Paralympics, you must remember, ended on March 21. Remediation at Hillcrest, UBC, Cypress, Creekside and the Callaghan Valley was still active. Giant piles of straw existed at Cypress in late May. Biologists you hired to trap mice seen escaping from delivery trucks in February were applying to the provincial government for permits in June. Why, if work was not finished, is this Sustainability Report the last? The previous sustainability report spanned Aug. 1, 2008 to July 31, 2009.

14 - Previous Sustainability Reports included information (though never enough to be satisfactory) from Intertek Group regarding the offshore manufacture of souvenir goods. Page 93 of the previous report even shows 79 factories -- including 57 in China -- were used to make Vancouver 2010 items. You even mentioned on a few occasions that factories had not been in compliance, but were given a second chance. Why, then, is the final report missing this information?

15 - The Sustainability Report is 138 pages. The Games final financial report -- which covers Sept. 30, 2003 to July 31, 2010 -- is just 28 pages. Why is one so fat and the other so thin? By comparison, the report for the fiscal year that ended July 31, 2009 was 31 pages.

16 - There was a $2 million loss because criminals used stolen credit card numbers to buy thousands of tickets on the Fan-to-Fan Marketplace. VANOC was the first organizing committee-to sanction a ticket scalping website. Each transaction was subject to a 20 percent fee (10 percent charged the buyer and 10 percent charged the seller). What was the total net revenue for this site and how many tickets were sold via this channel?

17 - These Games were supposed to be a step forward for Canadian aboriginals. The Four Host First Nations were instrumental in the success. You paid $3.5 million for their pavilion, yet the number of aboriginals on staff seems rather low. The report says only 1 percent of people on staff "self-identified" as being aboriginal. Could you convert that percentage to a number? We already know there was no full-blooded aboriginal athlete competing for Team Canada.

18 - The Olympic Truce was a delicate issue for VANOC, because the Canadian government is spending billions to put our men and women in harm's way in Afghanistan. There have been 154 deaths, including 24-year-old Cpl. Joshua Caleb Baker of Edmonton, who died at a weapons training range near Kandahar on Feb. 12, 2010, opening day of the Games. When VANOC did its part for the Olympic truce, it decided to send sports equipment in so-called spirit boxes to communities in the Canadian Arctic. What became of that program? That information is not reflected in the report.

19 - Certain expensive works were undertaken at B.C. Place Stadium that were never contemplated in the bid stage. The Sustainability Report laughingly claims there were “limited modifications to an existing facility.” In fact, the bid book said no extra money would be spent on capital upgrades there. Things changed when the roof ripped and collapsed on Jan. 5, 2007.

A new roof-heating system by Genivar was installed and in the weeks before the Games, technicians from Riggit were situated on top of the roof around the clock. Oh, there was that time less than a month before the Games when they went for a coffee break and the roof nearly collapsed under rain because the lighting and sound equipment pulled the roof. Then, after the Games, the roof was taken off for replacement. The material isn't biodegradable. Another roof replacement took place at Canada Place. Same material.

Certainly those weren't VANOC construction projects, but VANOC was the most important tenant in both buildings since 1986. Why do those not warrant mention in the Sustainability Report?

20 - Two words: Executive compensation. Four words: Who made how much? I also wonder how many people were working for each executive and how many were given extended leaves for illness or pregnancy.

I kindly look forward to a reply with complete answers to the above questions at the earliest convenience. Do take some time and enjoy the egg nog and yule logs while you ponder the answers. Of course, I do gladly accept plain, brown envelopes without return addresses (Mine is 554 E. 15th Ave., Vancouver, B.C. V5T 2R5).

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

--Bob Mackin

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