Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who needs Cirque du Soleil when B.C. Place has it all?

Premier Gordon Campbell wants us all to think that British Columbia is the Best Place on Earth.
If so, then he probably wants us to believe that B.C. Place Stadium is the Best Place in the Best Place on Earth.
After all, it's where the 2010 Winter Olympics will open (and close) next February. Campbell hopes to win the May 12 provincial election so he can be seen on global TV (as opposed to just Global TV), enjoying Gordo's Games.
However, the circus under the big top continues. On Tuesday I revealed the latest foibles in the troubled system that keeps the fabric roof aloft. Yeah, that's the same roof that ripped and collapsed under the weight of heavy, wet snow on Jan. 5, 2007. Right around the time Canada was winning the world junior hockey championship, live on TSN.
The latest incident could be the most worrisome. There are 16 fans that generate the air to inflate the roof. As many as three are needed while renovations are ongoing. One was off for maintenance on Feb. 18. One exploded, according to a source. Hours before the home show opened. Hours after a tour group got to see the jet engine fans.
I have confirmed seven incidents in recent months of rapid drops in air pressure and/or troubles with the heating/snowmelting system. All of this will be removed by 2011 when a new retractable roof will transform the skyline and give the stadium another quarter-century and then some.
Until then, it'll be a source of nervous finger-crossing and nail-biting.

An Inconvenient Sleuth

On Jan. 22, VANOC released its latest Sustainability Report Card.
It's a self-evaluation. A glorified navel-gazing exercise. Once upon a time, Olympic Games organizing committees didn't do this. So it is a positive step. But the lack of independent tire-kicking means the public can't take it for gospel.
Neither can reporters. Upon reading the report, I submitted the following questions to VANOC in advance of an interview with VANOC corporate sustainability officer Ann Duffy.

1) Aboriginal-owned company venue and non-venue construction contracts: list including values

2) Contracts with 23 inner-city businesses or organizations: list including values.

3) Board Advisory Committee on Sustainability Performance: names and affiliations of members, dates of past and future meetings, copies of agendas and minutes.

4) Refrigeration plant at Whistler Sliding Centre: average value of monthly power bills and how do they compare with other sliding centres in the world?

5) Backup generators: which BC Hydro substations will the two underground power lines be connected to? Where will the main "generator farms" be located?

6) Dates of WorkSafe BC incidents, nature of incidents, sites of incidents.

7) Where will aboriginal sport gallery be located if the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame is unable to open during the Games because of security restrictions?

8) Factory audits: names and locations of 187 factories audited and names and locations of the six that were banned. What were the infractions?

Only number 3 was answered, though not entirely. The BACSP is profiled on the VANOC website. Its members are mostly sponsors and government partners.
The rest of the questions? Confidentiality clauses and security fears preclude VANOC from satisfying the curiosity of journalists.

The blunt truth about Michael Phelps

Bing-bong the Phelps is gone... from the schedule of the Power Within motivational speakapaloozas in Calgary and Vancouver.
The Peking Phish, Michael Phelps, was struck from the bill for the March 3 and 6 events.
Toronto-based Power Within cited the phamous photo of Phelps using a marijuana bong for the cancelation. Phelps won eight swimming gold medals during his record-breaking Water Cube performance last summer. Now he's dealing with the Water Tube.
Could the cancelation almost two weeks before the speaking engagements be really about slow ticket sales? Or might there be a worry about Phelps -- who has not been charged with any crime -- crossing the border?
In unrelated news, a very different Michael Phelps remains on the board of directors for Vancouver 2010. This one's a lawyer and industrialist who was appointed by the Canadian Olympic Committee.

VANOC transportation plan -- delayed again

Way back in 2006, then-VANOC vice-president of transportation and logistics Wayne Keiser told me to expect the first draft of the VANOC transportation plan by the end of 2007.
Keiser was replaced by Irene Kerr who reports to executive vice-president of service operations Terry Wright.
More than a year has passed since that original deadline. Feb. 26 was pencilled in as a provisional date for the release. VANOC will instead tell Canadians how they an become extras for the opening and closing ceremonies.
The new date? A well-placed source tells me to mark March 11 on the calendar.
That's when the rubber hits the road and the excrement hits the fan. Vancouverites will not be amused by the road, bridge and lane closures. Some thoroughfares will be no-go during the Olympics and Paralympics. Others will be subject to scheduled closures and restrictions.
Vancouver's plan has been formulated by a secretive Olympic and Paralympic Transport Team.
By comparison, London 2012 issued public calls for comment in fall 2006 and fall 2008 on transportation planning drafts.
When I attended Beijing 2008's first world press briefing in September 2006, a first draft of the transportation plan was already published.
Vancouver 2010: With Glowing Hearts... and car-spangled spanners.

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