Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rogge on the Blogge

With two weeks and one day to go before Vancouver 2010 opens, IOC president Jacques Rogge held court with media on a wide-ranging Jan. 28 teleconference.

Rogge was at the IOC headquarters in quaint Lausanne, Switzerland where it was more wintry than in El Nino-affected Vancouver.

“I’m optimistic that it will be a great success. The only thing I might wish is you have the snowfall we had this morning in Lausanne, that might come in a couple of days in Vancouver.”

Here's what else the leader of the Olympic movement had to say.

On impacts of the economy:

“The Games are still not over and definitely NBC can still sell advertising at this stage. Also do not forget the rights we negotiate are a package between summer and winter. There are winters that are yielding a lot of profit, others a little bit less. The opposite goes for summer. On the cycles of summer and winter, the broadcasters definitely make a profit.

“We had absolutely no effect, the contracts of the sponsors were signed long before the economic crisis. None of the sponsors has defaulted, none of the host broadcasters has defaulted. We didn’t feel the effect of it.”

On the IOC pledge to help VANOC cover its losses:

“There is no fixed guarantee, we have agreed together with VANOC should that there be a shortfall we would help them out of that shortfall together with other stakeholders, but there is no fixed sum being allocated.

“The latest we heard and we discussed with VANOC is they’re heading for a balanced budget, but of course you always have to wait for the final outcome and this is something that will be known probably six weeks after the Games. As usual the bills come in at the last part of the party.”

On the $900 million security budget for Vancouver 2010:

“It is not as much a reflection of the Games that grow, it is a reflection of the world that is changing. We are living in a different world today, we’re not living in the world we had 10 years ago, that’s a reflection we can have. Whether we are happy with that or not is definitely not a subject for discussion, but we are living in a more dangerous world and this is something that affects not only sport, but every major organization, every major mass-gathering needs more security.”

On ticket sales and prices:

“I cannot give you the exact figure on the number of tickets sold. As far as the spread of the prices of tickets is concerned we always try to find a good spread that serves as much as possible all groups of society.”

On the battle against doping:

“We are making inroads, it has become far more difficult for athletes to cheat than a couple of years ago. This is because we have done more testing… we have frozen the samples and retest them when the new method is available as we just have done with the samples of Beijing. We work closely with police to help us when we suspect there is a network or a drug ring.”

On gender testing of athletes:

“There is no mandatory gender testing. There is a provision with experts should a case arise and should there be the feeling there is a need to have testing with an individual, that can be done. Normally there is no gender testing unless extraordinary circumstances and then we have a team in place.”

Rogge arrives in Vancouver on Feb. 4. When he’s not staying with the rest of IOC brass at the Westin Bayshore, he will overnight in a room set aside for him at the Vancouver Olympic Village. Rogge represented Belgium in yachting during at Mexico 1968, Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976 and became IOC president in 2001 at Moscow.

The Bayshore is rapidly becoming the most-secure hotel in Canada, surrounded by three-ply fences and concrete barriers, along with the infamous Perimeter Intrusion Detection System surveillance cameras and sensors.

The IOC executive board meets there Feb. 7 and 8, but Rogge will hold a Feb. 8 news conference at the main press centre.

On Feb. 9, selected media will get a tour of the Vancouver 2010 anti-doping laboratory at the Richmond Olympic Oval and the Vancouver Olympic Village.

The 122nd IOC session opening ceremony is Feb. 9 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. On Feb. 10, the IOC will elect the host city for the second Summer Youth Olympics. It’s a two-city race between Nanjing, China and Poznan, Poland.

The session continues Feb. 11 and 12 with Rogge’s pre-Games news conference in the MPC at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 12. The session reconvenes and adjourns the session Feb. 28 with the final Rogge news conference of the Games at 12:15 p.m.

Friday, January 29, 2010

14 days to go

The 2010 Winter Olympics start in less than a fortnight with men's ski jumping qualifiers at the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley.

Fourteen days from today. Not many songs about 14, but there is one that contains 14 right off the top. Vertigo by U2 with Bono's Spanish counting anomaly: "Uno, dos, tres, catorce!"

For those keeping score at home in English, that's "one, two, three 14!"

The iPod TV commercial is here. And here is Vertigo live in Milan at the legendary San Siro. Milan is the next big city over from Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Games.

Either Bono meant to say quatro or he didn't want to be compared to Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

Anyway, there are catorce days remaining until Tipperary-native John Furlong, the CEO of Vancouver's Olympic committee, becomes the most famous Irishman in a stadium with a microphone anywhere in the world (at least for a night) when the 2010 Winter Olympics formally open Feb. 12 in B.C. Place Stadium.

That's the same dome where U2 ended its 360 Tour on Oct. 30, 2009 and Bono offered "some Spanish lessons with Irish accents!"

Fourteen days until Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada says cead mille failte to the world.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

15 days to go: a different kind of countdown

Aneiki is an Australian pop duo and one of its hits (at least Down Under) is 2002's "Fifteen Minutes." It's a commentary on fame inspired by pop art guru Andy Warhol's observation that "in the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes."

It's Jan. 28 and in 15 days, 2,700 athletes from around the world will be in Vancouver and Whistler seeking their own 15 minutes of fame at the 2010 Winter Olympics. If they win gold, it'll be 15 years or more.

By the way, it's also one month until the Games end.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

16 days to go

If it's Jan. 27 that means it's 16 days until the 2010 Winter Olympics open in Vancouver.

The musical countdown continues with Sweet 16 by Billy Idol. The poignant ballad from his mid-1980s Whiplash Smile has a wistful guitar riff and simple black-and-white video of the Sneering One. There is a very colourful version from a 2008 episode of Elvis Costello's Storytellers.

The lyrics are prophetic for Vancouver in 2010. ("Well, memories will burn you; Memories grow older as people can; They just get colder; Like sweet sixteen.") There are pockets of Olympic fever. But there is also Olympic fear and Olympic frustration among segments of the populace which realize the costs may outweigh the benefits of the Games.

A Billy Idol song offers an apt segue to plug the Feb. 20 DOA "anti-Owe-Limp-Ics" gig at the Rickshaw in Vancouver with the Olympic city's best-known critic Chris Shaw. Two days later in Whistler, an official VANOC event at the medals plaza features DEVO. Yes, the spuds from Ohio are going to be in Whistler. Too bad they're not going to Pemberton, which is Spud Valley.

17 days to go

Seventeen is the theme of the day for Jan. 26. It's obvious. Seventeen days until the Feb. 12 opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Games are a 17-day event. Therefore it's a good time to rewind to the 1980s' favourite rockabilly trio, the Stray Cats, and their hit video "Sexy and Seventeen."

The Stray Cats are still going strong with Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom.

Grab your rock and roll queen and cut the rug. Seventeen days to go.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Behold, the official media freebie backpack of the 2010 Winter Olympics

The 2,500 accredited print and online media personnel covering the 2010 Winter Olympics will get a bagful of surprises when they show their badge at a nondescript table in the Main Press Centre. Here is the detailed swag inventory for Vancouver 2010:

1: Black, multi-pocket computer backpack with silver trim, branded with Acer and VANOC logo (manufactured by Eagle Bags and Leather Products Co. Ltd., Guangdong, China);
1: Vancouver 2010 Media Handbook (with greetings from VANOC CEO John Furlong and press operations director Lucia Montanarella);
1: White Ethernet cable;
1: Richmond Olympic Oval at sunset mouse pad (with contact information for Richmond's official chief syrup sucker Ted Townsend);
1: McDonald’s reporters’ notebook (billingual, includes coupon for six-piece Chicken McNuggets or Big Mac... which is Big Mac, in French);
1: Tourism Vancouver pen;
1: British Columbia 7.98 GB USB electronic media kit with lanyard;
1: Government of Canada lanyard and laminated card with\media URL (Yes, the slash is the wrong way!);
1: Visa Passport: Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (bilingual, includes "navigating the Canadian culture-do's and don'ts");
2: Newfoundland Labrador tourism postcards (screech not included);
1: Prince Edward Island tourism postcard (bilingual; that's Anne of Green Gables not Pippi Longstocking);
1: Saputo pin with smiling cow in blue toque holding red skis (moo!);
3: packages of Wrigley’s gum, including two Excel and one Juicy Fruit;
1: Snickers candy bar with special edition Believe package and Hockey Canada logo (may contain nougat);
1: McDonald’s nutrition facts pamphlet (Big Mac is 540 calories and 29 grams of fat in both official languages!);
2: Cold-FX one-day booster packs containing six capsules each (Don Cherry not included);
1: Cold-FX pin with a movable hockey goalie in net;
1: Royal Canadian Mint media kit on a thumb drive shaped like a loonie (in a metallic box with a window);
1: British Columbia host province Ez-V digital pedometer (made in Taiwan).

17 days to go

Continuing in the pop culture countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Jan. 25 is brought to you by the number 17.

Heaven 17 was part of the early 1980s synthpop revolution. The Sheffield, England band is still recording and touring. In fact, the band is celebrating its 30th anniversary by performing its Penthouse and Pavement album in its entirety on tour. Here is the band's hit single Temptation.

Jan. 25 is also the 251st anniversary of Scottish poet Robbie Burns' birth. Enjoy your haggis, especially those of you in the United States who can import some of the real stuff again after a 21-year ban.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

18 days to go

A real treat to mark the 18-day countdown to the Feb. 12 opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The video for Alice Cooper's classic "Eighteen."

Would love to see Alice Cooper come to Vancouver for the Games, but I don't think his music corresponds with the wholesome image producer David Atkins wants for the ceremonies. Phoenix-based Cooper is a big sports fan, particularly golf but he does profess to enjoy hockey. He even has his own sportsbar, Alice Cooperstown.

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