Thursday, November 18, 2010

With Glowing Hearts, they'll take out the trash

VANOC directors and executives meet behind closed doors in a boardroom at BC Hydro in downtown Vancouver Nov. 17. The 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics organization has delayed its post-Games report to Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. The last time it disclosed financial information was Dec. 21, 2009.

In the news business, we call Friday "Take Out the Trash Day".

Governments have a nasty habit of releasing information that's destined to be unpopular or controversial on a Friday.

Government propaganda departments think that a Friday news release or news conference means unflattering information has little time to be digested and debated before the diversion of the weekend when news demand goes down.

Dubious and dastardly? Absolutely.

It's a common tactic that was explored by National Public Radio in 2005. It's employed by the British Columbia government under Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell.

B.C. Place Stadium's $365 million renovations were announced Jan. 9, 2009 in a news release. That was a Friday. So was Oct. 23, 2009 when the price was hiked to $458 million.

March 26, 2010 was when the government announced the province's biggest casino would be built west of B.C. Place Stadium. If you guessed that was a Friday, then jackpot!

Premier Gordon Campbell and finance minister Colin Hansen announced the Harmonized Sales Tax on Friday, July 23, 2009. The public uproar over the lack of public consultation was slow to begin, but did it ever snowball!

In Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, the federal Conservative minority government unleashed hundreds of documents showing the $860 million cost of the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario.

The latest to employ the "Take Out the Trash" strategy is VANOC.

The Vancouver Olympic committee held a post-board meeting media teleconference Nov. 17, 2010 (which was a Wednesday). Chairman Rusty Goepel, CEO John Furlong and CFO John McLaughlin (see above photo) refused to answer any substantial questions about dollars or numbers. That's because they delayed the release of the post-Games financial report yet again. Remember, this is an agent of the government whose fiscal year ended July 31.

So mark Dec. 17 on your calendar. Guess which day of the week that is?

Yep, it's a Friday.

VANOC was battered by a recession after pretending a recession of any magnitude would not happen. Now it's going way beyond overtime to clean up the books and trying to claim that they're just double-checking numbers and letting auditors audit. Truth be told, it's a bigger job than they anticipated and the costs much greater. By comparison, Salt Lake 2002 issued a financial report in June 2002.

Not only is Dec. 17 a Friday, but it's the last important business Friday of 2010.

They could have decided to "Take Out the Trash" on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, but that would have entailed one of the few remaining VANOC staffers to actual work.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nov. 14: Expensive Stadium Day in Canada

Inside B.C. Place Stadium during a Nov. 5, 2010 tour. On Nov. 14, 1982, the stadium's original roof was inflated. Nov. 14 is also a significant date in the history of Montreal's Olympic Stadium and Toronto's SkyDome, now known as Rogers Centre.

What do B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver, Rogers Centre in Toronto and the Olympic Stadium in Montreal have in common?

They are all expensive, taxpayer-funded stadiums that have hosted Grey Cups and Nov. 14 is a key date in their histories.

By the time its public debt was retired in 2006, Montreal's "Big Owe" cost $1.47 billion. The French-designed retractable roof never worked. The tower that was key to the design wasn't finished when the Summer Olympics opened July 17, 1976. The Quebec government finally gave up in 1987 and shut the lid. The Montreal Expos moved after the 2004 season to Washington, D.C. The Montreal Alouettes only venture indoors for playoff games and it's closed during winters for fear of the roof collapsing under snow.

On Nov. 14, 1975, the Quebec government seized control of the financing and construction of the Olympic Stadium and created the Regie des installations Olympique. Montreal's Olympics became synonymous with corruption and cost overruns. It's a big reason why the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics had lukewarm support from British Columbians (until Canada started winning gold medals in February 2010).

Because of the grand faux pas in Montreal, Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium became Canada's first successful indoor stadium. It employed an air-supported fabric roof design. On Nov. 14, 1982, the fans were turned on as Premier Bill Bennett witnessed his "bubble" come to life. On March 8, 1983, Queen Elizabeth II invited the world to visit for Expo 86, but the $126 million building's official opening was June 19, 1983.

The roof was deflated on May 4, 2010 and a $458 million retractable system is under construction. A fall 2011 reopening is anticipated. The first and only event confirmed under "Campbell's Crown" is the Nov. 27, 2011 Grey Cup.

Toronto's SkyDome one-upped Vancouver with its $580 million, white, egg-shaped retractable roof beneath the landmark CN Tower that opened June 3, 1989. In 1985, Ontario Premier Bill Davis projected a $130 million cost.

On Nov. 14, 1991, Ontario's NDP government privatized the stadium in a deal with eight companies for $110 million cash and $270 million in debentures. Rogers Communications eventually paid the bargain basement price of $25 million in 2004 for the home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 1976 Olympics opened and closed at Olympic Stadium. B.C. Place was the Olympic stadium for the 2010 Games. Rogers Centre is where the 2015 Pan American Games will begin and end.

Blog Archive