Sunday, July 24, 2011

Exclusive: Hansen wanted a run for the border

How did the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics torch relay take a detour into the United States?

On Feb. 9, 2010, Sarajevo 1984 skiing champion Phil Mahre carried the flame through the Peace Arch from Blaine, Wash., to Surrey, B.C.

A March 6, 2008 letter (obtained via Freedom of Information) from Olympics minister Colin Hansen to VANOC CEO John Furlong proposed "the spirit of the Games be spread even further" by including the State of Washington in the Olympic torch relay.

Exclusive: B.C. government wanted Olympic torch to go south

Talk of the Olympic torch going below the 49th parallel had been ongoing for more than a year between key Liberal insiders and the government of Washington. Here's a brief timeline of how it developed.

A May 29, 2007 memo by Mark Jiles of the Progressive Group to Mary Rose, director of 2010 Programs for the Washington government, said "We have had a number of conversations with the 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) around the idea of having the torch relay enter the State of Washington on its way to Vancouver… Jim Richard (sic), director of the 2010 Torch Relay is prepared to recommend that Washington State be included in the plan that he is preparing to bring to the Board of Directors in mid-2007."

A news release by B.C. and Washington after a June 8, 2007 joint cabinet meeting said: "The jurisdictions have also pursued shared economic, Olympic and tourism opportunities, seeking ways for Washington to participate in events leading up to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games."

The Progressive Group is the consultancy run by Liberal insider Patrick Kinsella. In its dealings with the Washington government, Progressive pledged to "facilitate opportunities for Washington State to develop important relationships" with Olympic decision-makers, including the arrangement of meetings with Hansen and his top staffers, plus Furlong and VANOC chairman Jack Poole. Kinsella ran the Liberals' 2005 election win. Jiles was Premier Gordon Campbell's constituency campaign manager. Kinsella also ran Christy Clark's successful Liberal leadership win in 2011.

The company's proposal to Washington said: "Progressive Group is located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, while at the same time has a presence in the Provincial capital of Victoria and a foot into the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee."

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