Friday, February 4, 2011

Reality check: don't blame CTV, blame me

Premier Gordon Campbell did a lousy job of keeping secret the Olympic cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza when asked after the Feb. 8, 2010 unveiling of a wall in tribute to Poole at the Aboriginal Pavilion

From the “To err is human, to forgive is divine” department.

First the error.

VANOC CEO John Furlong’s book Patriot Hearts was written with Gary Mason, the Globe and Mail columnist who broke one of the biggest stories on the road to 2010: the Olympic Village financing scandal.

In a nutshell, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and the NPA-majority city council decided behind closed doors -- in a meeting format officially called “in camera” -- to bail out struggling developer Millennium when Olympic Village financier Fortress Credit Corporation stopped funding the project in September 2008.

Page 117 of Patriot Hearts says:

"It really had no choice since our deal to provide the village was with the city, not Millennium... But the decision to provide the financing was made on camera and leaked to Gary Mason." 

In camera means “in chamber” in Latin, but the meeting was not on camera.

Two vowels. Side-by-side on the keyboard. Oh lord. I. O. See?

Now for the forgiveness.

Furlong wags his finger at CTV (he does a lot of finger-wagging in the book) for putting its Chopper 9 in the sky above the Vancouver Convention Centre to get aerial footage of the mysterious structure inside a big, white box. The official Canadian broadcaster of the Games showed that a cauldron was constructed on Jack Poole Plaza!

Furlong recounts the incident on page 188

“...the local CTV affiliate had somehow discovered what was inside the big wooden box. They rented a helicopter, got a shot of it while it was briefly exposed, and put it on the air. I was livid. I couldn’t figure out why our Olympic partner would want to ruin this surprise for millions of Canadians.”

Mr. Furlong, don't be so hard on CTV. The real villain was me!

I had already been tipped by a source that the B.C. Place Stadium cauldron would be used at the opening and closing ceremonies only. There would be an outdoor burner, somewhere in the city. I saw the "white box" and the very telling camera on a pole on Jack Poole Plaza. During a tour the previous week, Olympic Broadcasting Services Vancouver chief operating officer Nancy Lee feigned ignorance when I asked her about the structure. Lee is normally a font of information and a frank-talker.

On Feb. 8, I cornered Premier Gordon Campbell at the opening of the Aboriginal Pavilion where he unveiled a wall display in tribute to Poole, the founding chairman of VANOC who died of pancreatic cancer.

Here's my story that broke the secret and gave CTV's flyboys a reason to go for a spin. This is what CTV came up with.

So Furlong wags his finger at the wrong media outlet.

I’ll forgive him, even if he begins wagging his finger at me for revealing one of the Games’ biggest secrets.

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