Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just a tease?

C is for Canada, conservative and champions.

Canada’s 2010 Winter Olympic athletes will be sporting a conservative look in their quest to Own the Podium at the Vancouver Games in February.

This is in stark contrast to the very loud styles worn at Beijing 2008. Those duds were a dud, because they earned a thumbs down from consumers and the media. They were stacking 'em deep and selling 'em cheap even before the Games opened!

I spotted the items below on the shelves and racks Sept. 23 at the Park Royal location of Hudson’s Bay Company, the VANOC sponsor/Canadian Olympic Committee supplier. Is HBC quietly slipping some items into stores to create a buzz? Or did somebody open some important boxes before they were supposed to?

The black circular C on white with the red maple leaf in the middle is prominently featured. Another icon features a shield with a black, snow-capped mountain above ocean waves with 2010 in white across the middle. The shirts and drink containers include O Canada lyrics True North, Strong and Free.

True North, Strong and Free. It’s also used as the minority Conservative government’s slogan. The Tories, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, view the Games as a an international image-building vehicle to exert sovereignty over the Arctic and boost the might of Canada’s military, which is fighting in Afghanistan.

Official unveiling is Oct. 1 at the downtown Vancouver HBC store, site of the official Olympic Superstore.

Canada's 2010 Olympic team T-shirts.

HBC-designed Canadian Olympic team logo.

HBC's Chinese-style 2008 team clothes were panned.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vancouver cops loafin' and sweepin' at the Bayshore

While the Canada Maritime Conference opened at the Westin Bayshore hotel in Vancouver on Sept. 23, Vancouver Police Department officers were huddled on the second floor for Sweep Training. That's what the lobby sign said.

That explains the well-groomed, plainclothes types spotted slowly wandering Coal Harbour area sidewalks with clipboards. The duos and trios were noting every parking meter, pole, fire hydrant and crack in walkways. And, no, they weren't armed with brooms or brushes.

Every Olympic venue will be thoroughly examined in security sweeps during pre-Games lockdowns.

The cops came and went in some of the newest additions to the VPD fleet, Dodge Sprinter vans. The rest of the world knows it as a Mercedes-Benz model or a "bread van" for the loaf-shape.

These vans are popular with police worldwide, from the scene of European soccer riots to patrols of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Look for them around the Olympic city.

The Olympics are a venue for Nike and Adidas to show off their latest, high-tech gear that turns mere mortals into gold medalists. It's also an occasion for security and safety equipment suppliers to hype their products.

The Westin Bayshore, by the way, will be among the three most-secured locations of the 2010 Winter Olympics because it is the primary Olympic family hotel. Only the Vancouver and Whistler Olympic villages will have such tight security.

Sweep Training sign in Westin Bayshore lobby.

VPD bread van outside the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver.

VPD bread van near the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Wacky week

This week's VANOC theme is Chilliwack.

On Sept. 21 at the Roundhouse Community Centre, 70 projects were added to the 2010 Cultural Olympiad. The news conference ended with a performance by Bill Henderson, leader of the classic rock band named for the "green heart" of the Fraser Valley.

On Sept. 23, VANOC is staging a dress rehearsal of the Olympic torch relay, sans flame. The route hasn't been published, but VANOC said the convoy would go through Hope, Seabird Island, Harrison Hot Springs, Agassiz, Rosedale, Chilliwack and Abbotsford from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The same communities are scheduled for a visit by the torch on Feb. 7 when it's en route to the Feb. 12 opening ceremony in Vancouver.

Media have been advised the faux relay will pass Chilliwack Spirit Square at 12:50 p.m. A test community celebration will be held at 1:14 p.m. at Chilliwack Landing Leisure Centre.

The first torch will be lit in Olympia, Greece on Oct. 22, run around Greece for a week, handed-over to Canada's Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean on Oct. 29 and then transported in a canister aboard a Canadian Forces military charter plane for the Oct. 30 arrival in Victoria.

The torch will be accompanied on its tour by a convoy of vehicles. Some documents I have obtained show three police cruisers, two torchbearers’ motorcoaches, two SUVs, five trucks, two buses for security and guest relations, six police motorcycles and an ambulance. The torchbearer will be escorted by two RCMP “security runners.” Some 45,000 kilometres must be covered in 106 days by 12,000 people. More clicks will be counted on the odometers of airplanes and automobiles than on the feet of humans. This is more a Great Canadian Road Trip than it is a human-powered feat.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Inside the B.C. Showcase at Robson Square

The British Columbia Showcase at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver is open and ready to promote business. Well, at least it's had a soft-opening. The official ribbon cutting with Premier Gordon Campbell is coming soon. Because it's not officially open until Gordo says so.

Sept. 21 featured a reception for Vancouver Island's Comox Valley and its main attraction, Mount Washington resort.

The ski, snowboard and snowshoe area next to Strathcona Provincial Park is hosting nine national Olympic teams in seven sports in January and February. Among the guests was Swedish Olympic Committee sports director Peter Reinebo who was spotted with Vancouver Canucks legend Thomas Gradin and Susan Kelsey, the Montreal 1976 bronze medal swimmer who is Comox Valley's biggest cheerleader.

The Showcase itself is like a small-scale version of the B.C. Canada Pavilion at Beijing. B.C. wood abounds, as do video screens of all shapes and sizes. The B.C. Explorer interactive map is featured prominently. B.C. is branded "Canada's Pacific Gateway" instead of "The Best Place on Earth." If the province really is "The Best Place on Earth" -- as government propaganda tells us -- then why not say so to B.C. Showcase visitors?

Construction workers have packed up and gone home. The new domes and the Ice Plaza rink are ready. Just add ice. The official opening of the reborn rink is coming in the third week of November, according to title sponsor GE.
Susan Kelsey (left), Thomas Gradin and Peter Reinebo.

Video screens at B.C. Showcase in Robson Square.

B.C. Showcase at Robson Square.

B.C. Explorer at B.C. Showcase

Front door of B.C. Showcase.

Robson Square's GE Ice Plaza. Just add ice. Coming in November.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pavilion panoply

When the global economic crisis hit last fall, the promotional plans of Olympic sponsors were turned upside down.

Only Molson-Coors, Samsung and Coca-Cola, B.C. Lottery Corp., and Heineken have announced public pavilions so far. Governments, however, don't seem concerned about spending taxpayer dollars. In fact, the governments appear to be rescuing VANOC in a subtle way that will be not-so-subtle come February.

Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan will have pavilions on the old Expo 86 site, the northeast False Creek Concord Place. The Atlantic provinces are joining forces at the Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island. Manitoba will be at the EasyPark live site along with the Sept. 20-announced Canada Pavilion.

The Canadian Heritage ministry is spending $10 million on the tourism and trade exhibit. The last paragraph of the news release, however, says bids will soon open for designing, building and operating the pavilion. Hurry up, guys and gals, the opening ceremony is in less than five months! Seems like this was written on the back of a napkin by Gary Lunn, the junior minister for the Olympics.

Why do I say that? Not because of cynicism. As recently as July the federal government was studying the feasibility of an Olympic and Paralympic pavilion being part of a national tour hitting big domestic events. In fact, the feds are well-advanced in their planning for the Canada Pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo and renovations to make Trafalgar Square's Canada House embassy the Canada pavilion for London 2012.

In August, the B.C. government released a request for proposals for a B.C. Canada Pavilion in the fourth floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Victoria and Ottawa partnered on pavilions in Torino and Beijing. Problem is, there was previously no plan to do a joint B.C./Canada pavilion at Vancouver 2010 and the entire B.C. presence was supposed to fit in Robson Square. Renting space in VAG was not part of the plan.

Robson Square was simply to host the B.C. International Media Centre, B.C. Showcase, 2010 Commerce Centre and the GE Ice Plaza free skating rink. The list is right here. A pavilion, per se, was not part of the plans that were originally envisioned by B.C. 2010 Winter Games Secretariat CEO Annette Antoniak. She was suddenly replaced last January by Phil Steenkamp.

Apparently, Mr. Steenkamp has new ideas. Or perhaps someone in the Liberal government asked for the Secretariat to do more while VANOC and the local economy have to do with less from recession-hit, penny-pinching Olympic sponsors.

Maybe B.C.'s junior minister for the Olympics, Mary McNeil, has a pen and napkin just like Lunn's.

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