Friday, February 18, 2011

Inflated numbers, inflated celebration

Colin Hansen has a heavy workload. That may be an understatement.

At this time, he is Deputy Premier, Finance minister, Health Services minister and minister responsible for Small Business. He must have a lot in his brain and his briefcase.

Like many politicians, he is known for being economical with the truth at times. He's one of the gang that has often repeated the myth that 3.5 billion people watched the 2010 Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee's revised estimate in July 2010 was 1.8 billion actual viewers.

Fellas, use the real number, why don't ya? Stop bamboozling the people.

On Feb. 17, the Legislative sitting ended with lawmakers speaking in tribute of outgoing Premier Gordon Campbell. Hansen, who is also Olympics minister, stood up and said this:

Colin Hansen: "My colleague earlier referenced the Olympics. When you think back that British Columbia only won the right to host the Olympic Games by three votes.... That would not have happened had it not been for the work that was done by our Premier to make sure that we reached out and made sure that British Columbia put their best foot forward in that campaign. I can remember the elation that I felt sitting in B.C. Place Stadium at six o'clock in the morning B.C. time as we watched on the big screens that Vancouver had been awarded the 2010 Olympic Winter Games."

Well, Mr. Hansen, your memory is faulty. Or you're just trying to inflate the importance of the date.

Vancouverites gathered early July 2, 2003 at General Motors Place (now Rogers Arena) to watch the result of the International Olympic Committee's vote in Prague. GM Place has a scoreboard with four sides. B.C. Place Stadium, until the 2010 Winter Olympics, had only one big screen.

B.C. Place was closed the morning that Vancouver was named the 2010 Games host.

WikiLeak on the Vancouver Olympic bid's kingmaker

Ex-Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who was fired in September 2010, cut a secret deal with Vancouver 2010 boss John Furlong and Bob Storey, the Canadian who was in charge of international bobsled and skeleton. The deal to secure Russian IOC members' votes in 2003 could have been the difference for Vancouver's successful 2010 Games bid.

Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong's memoir, Patriot Hearts, revealed how a secret deal to secure Russian votes may have been the difference in Vancouver winning the Games over PyeongChang, South Korea in 2003.

Furlong denied the Bob Storey-brokered deal, which involved Vancouver bidders advising Russians on how to build a winning bid, contravened the International Olympic Committee's ethics code.

The deal, Furlong wrote, was consummated by a handshake with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov in his office near Red Square. Luzhkov fell out of favour with the Kremlin and was fired in September 2010. The Russian audit chamber now claims Luzhkov committed massive financial improprieties while in office, the Guardian reports.

Luzhkov, who was appointed mayor in 1993 by Boris Yeltsin, attracted the attention of the United States embassy in Moscow. Yes, there is a WikiLeak for that. Below is ambassador John Beyrle's not-too-flattering February 2010 cable about Luzhkov.

10MOSCOW317 2010-02-12 15:03 2010-12-01 21:09 SECRET Embassy Moscow
DE RUEHMO #0317/01 0431539
O 121539Z FEB 10
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000317


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2020

Classified By: Ambassador John R. Beyrle. Reason: 1.4 (b), (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov remains a loyal
member of United Russia, with a reputation for ensuring that
the city has the resources it needs to function smoothly.
Questions increasingly arise regarding Luzhkov's connections
to the criminal world and the impact of these ties on
governance. Luzhkov remains in a solid position due to his
value as a consistent deliverer of votes for the ruling
party. Unfortunately, the shadowy world of corrupt business
practices under Luzhkov continues in Moscow, with corrupt
officials requiring bribes from businesses attempting to
operate in the city. End Summary.

Overview: The Kremlin's Luzhkov Dilemma

¶2. (C) Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov is the embodiment of
political dilemma for the Kremlin. A loyal, founding member
of United Russia and a trusted deliverer of votes and
influence for the ruling party and its leader, Prime Minister
Putin, Luzhkov's connections to Moscow's business community
-- the big and legitimate as well as the marginal and corrupt
-- has enabled him to call for support when he needs it, to
deliver votes for United Russia, or to ensure that the city
has the resources it needs to function smoothly. Luzhkov's
national reputation as the man who governs the ungovernable,
who cleans the streets, keeps the Metro running and maintains
order in Europe's largest metropolis of almost 11 million
people, earns him a certain amount of slack from government
and party leaders. He oversaw what even United Russia
insiders acknowledge was a dirty, compromised election for
the Moscow City Duma in October, and yet received only a slap
on the wrist from President Medvedev.

¶3. (C) Muscovites are increasingly questioning the standard
operating procedures of their chief executive, a man who, as
of 2007, they no longer directly elect. Luzhkov's
connections to the criminal world and the impact that these
ties have had on governance and development in Moscow are
increasingly a matter of public discussion. Although Luzhkov
was successful in winning court-ordered damages from
opposition leader Boris Nemtsov for his recent publication
"Luzhkov: An Accounting," Nemtsov and his Solidarity-movement
allies were heartened by the fact that the judge did not
award damages on the basis of the corruption accusations
themselves, but rather on a libel technicality.

¶4. (C) Few believe that Luzhkov will voluntarily relinquish
his post prior to 2012, when the Moscow City Duma must submit
a list of mayoral candidates to Medvedev for his selection.
United Russia will probably call on Luzhkov's political
machine and his genuine public support to deliver votes for
them in the 2011 State Duma elections, as well as the 2012
Presidential contest. With no apparent successor in line,
and with no ambitions beyond remaining mayor, Luzhkov is in a
solid position. The evidence of his involvement -- or at
least association -- with corruption remains significant.
This cable presents that side of Luzhkov -- one that bears
not only on Luzhkov and his handling of local politics, but
on Putin and Medvedev as they move toward the 2012 elections.

Background on Moscow's Criminal World

¶5. (C) The Moscow city government's direct links to
criminality have led some to call it "dysfunctional," and to
assert that the government operates more as a kleptocracy
than a government. Criminal elements enjoy a "krysha" (a
term from the criminal/mafia world literally meaning "roof"
or protection) that runs through the police, the Federal
Security Service (FSB), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD),
and the prosecutor's office, as well as throughout the Moscow
city government bureaucracy. Analysts identify a
three-tiered structure in Moscow's criminal world. Luzhkov
is at the top. The FSB, MVD, and militia are at the second
level. Finally, ordinary criminals and corrupt inspectors
are at the lowest level. This is an inefficient system in
which criminal groups fill a void in some areas because the
city is not providing some services.

told us that Moscow's ethnic criminal groups do business and
give paybacks. It is the federal headquarters of the
parties, not the criminal groups, who decide who will
participate in politics. XXXXXXXXXXXX argued that the
political parties are the ones with the political clout;
therefore, they have some power over these criminal groups.

MOSCOW 00000317 002 OF 003

Crime groups work with municipal bureaucrats, but at a low
level. For example, the Armenians and Georgians were
formerly heavily involved in the gambling business before
city officials closed the gambling facilities. These ethnic
groups needed protection from law enforcement crackdowns, so
they sought cooperation with the municipal bureaucrats. In
such scenarios, crime groups paid the Moscow police for

Luzhkov's Links to Criminal Figures

XXXXXXXXXXXX, told us that Luzhkov's wife,
Yelena Baturina, definitely has links to the criminal world,
and particularly to the Solntsevo criminal group (widely
regarded by Russian law enforcement as one of the most
powerful organized crime groups in Russia). According to the
Internet article, "On the Moscow Group," Vladimir
Yevtushenko, the head of the company Sistema, is married to
Natalya Yevtushenko, Baturina's sister. Sistema was created
with Moscow city government-owned shares, and Sistema
initially focused on privatizing the capital's real estate
and gas. Sistema's president, Yevgeny Novitsky, controlled
the Solntsevo criminal gang. Today, Sistema has spun off
into various companies, which implement projects that
typically include 50 percent funding from the Moscow city

¶8. (S) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Luzhkov used criminal money to
support his rise to power and has been involved with bribes
and deals regarding lucrative construction contracts
throughout Moscow. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that Luzhkov's friends and
associates (including recently deceased crime boss Vyacheslav
Ivankov and reputedly corrupt Duma Deputy Joseph Kobzon) are
"bandits." He told us that he knew this because he formerly
had contacts in these criminal groups, but many of his
contacts have since been killed. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the Moscow
government has links to many different criminal groups and it
regularly takes cash bribes from businesses. The people
under Luzhkov maintain these criminal connections. Recently,
ultranationalist LDPR opposition party leader Vladimir
Zhirinovskiy strongly criticized Luzhkov and called for him
to step down, claiming that Luzhkov's government was the
"most criminal" in Russian history. This remarkable
denunciation, carried on state TV flagship Channel One, was
widely seen as an indirect Kremlin rebuke of Luzhkov.

¶9. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us everyone knows that Russia's laws do not
work. The Moscow system is based on officials making money.
The government bureaucrats, FSB, MVD, police, and
prosecutor's offices all accept bribes. XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that
everything depends on the Kremlin and he thought that
Luzhkov, as well as many mayors and governors, pay off key
insiders in the Kremlin. XXXXXXXXXXXX argued that the vertical
works because people are paying bribes all the way to the
top. He told us that people often witness officials going
into the Kremlin with large suitcases and bodyguards, and he
speculated that the suitcases are full of money. The
governors collect money based on bribes, almost resembling a
tax system, throughout their regions. XXXXXXXXXXXX described how
there are parallel structures in the regions in which people
are able to pay their leaders. For instance, the FSB, MVD,
and militia all have distinct money collection systems.
Further, XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that deputies generally have to buy
their seats in the government. They need money to get to the
top, but once they are there, their positions become quite
lucrative money making opportunities. Bureaucrats in Moscow
are notorious for doing all kinds of illegal business to get
extra money.

¶10. (S) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Luzhkov is following orders
from the Kremlin to not go after Moscow's criminal groups.
For example, XXXXXXXXXXXX argued that it was only a public
relations stunt from Putin to close gambling. In contrast to
XXXXXXXXXXXX said he did not see the sense in suitcases
of money going into the Kremlin since it would be easier to
open a secret account in Cyprus. He speculated that the
Moscow police heads have a secret war chest of money.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said that this money is likely used to solve
problems that the Kremlin decides, such as rigging elections.
It can be accessed as a resource for when orders come from
above, for example, for bribes or to pay off people when
necessary. XXXXXXXXXXXX postulated that the Kremlin might say
to a governor that he can rule a certain territory but in
exchange he must do what the Kremlin says.

¶11. (C) Notwithstanding Luzhkov's solid position, some of our
contacts believe that cracks have appeared in his armor, due

MOSCOW 00000317 003 OF 003

to his corrupt activities. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that Luzhkov has
many enemies because his wife has the most lucrative business
deals in Moscow and many people think Luzhkov has received
too much money. The son of the head of the interior police,
Vladimir Kolokotsev, told XXXXXXXXXXXX that Kolokotsev's number one
job is to get Luzhkov out within a year. Kolokotsev was
credited with removing long-standing Governor Yegor Stroyev
from Orel. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that Luzhkov is "on his way
out," although he acknowledged that the Kremlin has not
identified a suitable replacement yet. Issues such as
corruption and traffic congestion have, to a certain degree,
eroded Luzhkov's popularity. Putin, XXXXXXXXXXXX said, will
likely pick the quietest and least expected person to replace

In Moscow, Everyone Needs a "Krysha"

¶12. (C) According to many observers, the lawless criminal
climate in Russia makes it difficult for businesses to
survive without being defended by some type of protection.
XXXXXXXXXXXX explained how bribes work in Moscow: a cafe owner
pays the local police chief via cash through a courier. He
needs to pay a certain negotiated amount over a certain
profit. The high prices of goods in Moscow cover these
hidden costs. Sometimes people receive "bad protection" in
the sense that the "krysha" extorts an excessive amount of
money. As a result, they cannot make enough of a profit to
maintain their businesses. If people attempt to forego
protection, they will instantly be shut down. For example,
officials from the fire or sanitation service will appear at
the business and invent a violation. According to
XXXXXXXXXXXX, everyone has bought into the idea of protection
in Moscow, so it has become a norm. In general, Muscovites
have little freedom to speak out against corrupt activities
and are afraid of their leaders.

¶13. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX explained that Moscow business owners
understand that it is best to get protection from the MVD and
FSB (rather than organized crime groups) since they not only
have more guns, resources, and power than criminal groups,
but they are also protected by the law. For this reason,
protection from criminal gangs is no longer so high in
demand. Police and MVD collect money from small businesses
while the FSB collects from big businesses. According to
XXXXXXXXXXXX, the FSB "krysha" is allegedly the best protection. He
told us that, while the MVD and FSB both have close links to
Solntsevo, the FSB is the real "krysha" for Solntsevo. This
system is not an incentive for smaller businesses and nobody
is immune; even rich people who think they are protected get
arrested. According to Transparency International's 2009
survey, bribery costs Russia USD 300 billion a year, or about
18 percent of its gross domestic product. XXXXXXXXXXXX argued
that the "krysha" system has led to an erosion of police
internal discipline. For instance, young police officers
spend their money buying luxury vehicles that a normal worker
could never afford.


¶14. (S) Despite Medvedev's stated anti-corruption campaign,
the extent of corruption in Moscow remains pervasive with
Mayor Luzhkov at the top of the pyramid. Luzhkov oversees a
system in which it appears that almost everyone at every
level is involved in some form of corruption or criminal
behavior. Putin and Medvedev's dilemma is deciding when
Luzhkov becomes a bigger liability than asset. While public
sentiment against Luzhkov has grown since the "tainted"
elections in October 2009, United Russia's leadership knows
that he has been a loyal supporter who can deliver voter
support. Ousting Luzhkov before he is ready to go could
create major difficulties because he could link others in the
government to the corruption. While reforming Luzhkov's
questionable activities might seem like the right thing to
do, for now keeping him in place, efficiently running the
city, is United Russia's best option. Ultimately, the tandem
will put Luzhkov out to pasture, like it has done with fellow
long-term regional leaders like Sverdlovsk oblast governor
Edward Rossel and Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaymiyev.


LiveCity could've been DeadCity

On Feb. 16, 2010, just moments after Alexisonfire hit the stage at the David Lam Park live site -- aka LiveCity Yaletown -- a barricade collapsed and 19 people were injured. Nine were taken to hospital. Though not a VANOC venue, it was an official celebratory site and this was the most serious incident of its type during the Games.

The band immediately curtailed the concert and members even came to the rescue of the injured. A noble gesture. The right thing to do.

But evidence obtained by me shows that the City of Vancouver put concert-goers' lives in jeopardy. One security guard suffered a serious leg injury, according to WorkSafeBC documents.

The city's daily operations group meeting just over 12 hours BEFORE the incident indicated that there were serious crowd control and safety issues at the live site. It was too popular and its maximum capacity was unknown. Officials learned that the emergency exits had been locked and nobody knew where the key was!

Media was told there were 7,600 people at the show, but officials didn't really know how many people were there. Two days later, a "certified professional" set 9,000 as the maximum capacity.

City hall, under Mayor Gregor Robertson and city manager/VANOC director Penny Ballem, skated ever-so close to death and disaster on Feb. 16, 2010.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Exclusive: Premier's Vancouver "throne"

A glimpse inside the washroom at Premier Gordon Campbell's downtown Vancouver office. (Bob Mackin photo)

Feb. 15, 2011 was the last British Columbia budget of the Gordon Campbell era. And it was probably the last time under Campbell rule that reporters would access the office in Canada Place's World Trade Centre where Campbell and his cabinet work and meet when they're in downtown Vancouver.

The seventh-floor suite is near the German and Swiss consulates, but has no sign on the door. There is a combo doorbell/surveillance camera. The security measures probably stem from the Feb. 21, 2008 invasion by members of the Anti-Poverty Committee.

Those who gain entry must walk along a short corridor, past a gallery of Olympic photographs and newspaper front pages before the main door.

Hallways are riddled with framed photographs of Campbell with ex-B.C. Premier Bill Bennett, Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and ex-Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean.

A photograph of Campbell greeting the Dalai Lama was once above a photograph of Campbell and Chinese president Hu Jintao. They have been rearranged and are now horizontally separated by a photograph of Campbell and ex-President Bill Clinton.

A mysterious box wrapped in yellow silk was propped up against the wall.

Campbell's office is off-limits to nosy wanderers, but the (ahem) "office" is not.

Nature did call and this time I brought my camera. The loo appeared unchanged from my previous visit during the September 2009 budget lockup.

On this day at least, it was BYOB (bring-your-own-book). It has the usual amenities, including a mirror and sink. A bottle of hand sanitizer was available.

The walls were a reminder of who's in charge (until Feb. 26) and what his pet project was.

The decor includes: a Vancouver 2010 Candidate City poster, Spirit of 2010 poster; The Province Welcoming the world in six years Olympic countdown poster; three small posters from the 2009 election campaign; a poster showing front pages of the Vancouver Sun and Globe and Mail from the Liberals' 2005 re-election; a 2003-2010 Alcan-sponsored "Grow with the Games" calendar with height measurement; panoramic photographs of the Cariboo Chilcotin and William R. Bennett Bridge.

A mysterious box wrapped in yellow silk was on the floor in the downtown Vancouver office of Premier Gordon Campbell and the B.C. cabinet on Feb. 15. (Bob Mackin photo)

Flashback: Feb. 17, 2010

White’s golden night
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

WEST VANCOUVER: Red skies at night, Shaun White's delight.

As the clear Wednesday afternoon sky above Cypress Mountain gave way to the most brilliant sunset since the 2010 Winter Olympics Games opened, the Turin 2006 halfpipe snowboarding champion known as “The Flying Tomato” continued to reinforce his reputation as the best in the sport with each run on the icy slope.

San Diego’s White satisfied his rock star-like following when he became the first in halfpipe to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. White scored a 48.4 in the final run on which he executed his signature Double McTwist 1260 move to the delight of the full grandstand, which included his parents.

“I can’t even tell you or begin to describe how many times I’ve gone over this run in my mind, gone over this competition in my head, imagined what it would be like. I can finally go to sleep now,” said 23-year-old White, who won a world cup test event on the same course last year.

“On this world stage why not deliver something spectacular? I felt like I came all the way to Canada, talked about this trick so much, blood sweat and tears, to land it and there it was.”

The win was even sweeter because White described this as the most challenging season of his career. He said he has crashed more than ever and felt more frustrated than before and “pushed myself as far as I can go.”

Despite being the superior entrant, White said he had to battle the course in soggy and foggy conditions at Cypress earlier in the week.

“It’s not easy to make a halfpipe with no snow in a tough season, and they delivered,” White said.” The halfpipe the first day was one of the worst halfpipes I’ve ridden in my life and it went from there to one of the best.”

Peetu Piiroinen of Finland won silver and American Scott Lago claimed bronze. Justin Lamoureux of Squamish, B.C., was the lone Canadian among the 12 finalists. He finished seventh.

(Postscript: This was perhaps the most memorable outdoor sporting event I covered during the Games. White did numerous broadcast interviews, including one with NBC's Jenna "Daughter of Dubya" Bush, before finally reaching us print reporters. His handler warned us he'd have time for only four questions because White needed to get to doping control for the post-competition urine sampling. White stayed more than 10 minutes and answered every question. Rarely have I seen an athlete speak so passionately about his sport. Hockey players should learn from White. Sad to report that the halfpipe on which White thrilled the world was demolished.)

Let the sales begin again

The view from suite 802 at the Village on False Creek, the former Millennium Water and athletes' village from the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The $1.1 billion complex was placed in receivership Nov. 17, 2010 and relaunched for sales on Feb. 17, 2011. (Bob Mackin photo)

The Vancouver Olympic Village, formerly Millennium Water, has been rebranded The Village on False Creek. Condo king Bob Rennie kicked off a low-key sales campaign Feb. 17, 2010 -- three months after it was placed in receivership over developer Millennium's $740 million debt to Vancouver city hall.

Here is the new site map and price list. What do you think?

The Village | Price Range Handout

The Village - Site Map

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 16, 2010

Ricker rides to historic gold
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

WEST VANCOUVER: The fog lifted at Cypress Mountain Tuesday and Maelle Ricker became the first Canadian woman and first British Columbian to win Olympic gold at home.

Ricker, a 31-year-old from Squamish, B.C., beat Deborah Anthonioz of France and Olivia Nobs of Switzerland in the women’s snowboardcross final. World champion Helen Olafsen of Norway crashed midway.

"I tried to explode out of the gate, I really wanted to get out of that gate as fast as I can,” said Ricker. "It was really, really hard today to get a clean run all the way down the course, but I just held on and did my best."

The North Vancouver native who grew up near Cypress was the undisputed favourite after winning three of five world cup races this season and placing third in another.

Ricker’s win was the biggest snowboarding victory for Canada since Ross Rebagliati took the Olympic gold medal in giant slalom at Nagano 1998. Ricker also made her Olympic debut at Nagano, finishing fifth in halfpipe. Tuesday’s win was redemption for Turin 2006 where Ricker finished fourth in snowboardcross despite crashing before the finish line.

“Turin was such a motivator for me, it just made me work that much harder and just go for it for today,” Ricker said.

Ricker’s American rival Lindsey Jacobellis, the Turin silver medallist, was eliminated from contention in the semifinal. The two appeared to make contact early in the race. Jacobellis was the consolation final winner.

“I don’t think we clipped, we were definitely really close right out of the start, and I don’t know what happened to her,” Ricker said. “I don’t know where she went down, I just tried to stay on my line and focus on what I was doing.”

Turin bronze medallist Dominique Maltais of Petite-Riviere-St-Francois, Que., was eliminated after she crashed in both qualifying runs.

Cypress is Canada’s most lucrative venue of the 2010 Games. Montreal moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau captured Canada’s historic first home-won gold medal on Sunday at Cypress. On Monday, Mike Robertson of Edmonton got silver in the men’s snowboardcross.

The West Vancouver resort has also provided the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, known as VANOC, with its biggest weather challenges. Warm and wet El Nino-influenced weather wiped snow off the slopes in January. More than 350 truckloads of snow were brought 160 kilometres from Allison Pass in Manning Provincial Park to salvage competitions.

Allison Pass, coincidentally, is named for John Fall Allison, a B.C. gold rush pioneer in the 19th century.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 15, 2010

While the fuss about VANOC's French faux pas raged during the 2010 Winter Olympics, buses all the way from La Belle Province worked at the Games. This one from Quebec City was a shuttle between the venue entry and the Olympic family hospitality room at the main Cypress Mountain lodge. (Bob Mackin photo)

French flap
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER: Monday was Quebec Day at the 2010 Winter Olympics and the day after Montreal moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada’s historic first home Olympic gold medal.

But VANOC remained on the defensive after Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore’s weekend comments criticizing the lack of French language and culture in the Games’ opening ceremony.

“VANOC has worked tirelessly to represent bilingual Canada every level, every venue, every facility,” CEO John Furlong said. “We have assembled here in Vancouver thousands of volunteers from French Canada.”

Frank King, who presided over the Calgary 1988 organizing committee, said VANOC is making a good effort to recognize both official languages of Canada and the Olympics.

“You can never do it perfectly,” King said. “There is always somebody that would say it’s not quite enough. It’s the effort that counts.”

Last September, Moore made a surprise $7.2 million grant to VANOC for more French documents and signage, the same day official languages commissioner Graham Fraser slammed VANOC and the federal government. Fraser said they were running out of time to add more French signage and services to airports and Olympic venues.

VANOC spent some of the money on a bilingual sign for the Richmond Olympic Oval, which opened with an English sign. The federal government also paid $20 million for the opening ceremony, which included substantial aboriginal themes.

The chef de mission for the Canadian Olympic team told QMI that the amount of French content in the opening ceremony was adequate.

“I thought the opening ceremony was amazing and truly everything was translated also in the stadium for the people that are sitting that are sitting there that maybe didn’t understand what was happening in English,” Nathalie Lambert said. “This was a global show and we truly made an effort to make it bilingual.”

Lambert said the athletes’ and officials’ oaths are normally delivered in English “the language of choice for the Olympics.” But on Friday, short-track speedskating referee Michel Verrault of Lac-Beauport, Que., made his oath in French.
Lambert said services in both languages are available at all venues and both villages for athletes, even though not all volunteers are bilingual.

Meanwhile, Charest used the spotlight to promote a study into a potential Quebec City bid for the 2022. He called the capital “one of the best cities in the world, a city made to measure to host a Winter Games.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 14, 2010

Problems plague Cypress, transportation systems
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER: Millions of dollars were spent to truck and airlift snow to cover the rainsoaked slopes of Cypress Mountain, but that’s not VANOC’s only problem at the snowboarding and freestyle skiing venue.

Food service was disrupted by a power outage during Saturday night women’s moguls competition. Lineups were long and crowd control described as chaotic by fans trying to get out of the wind and rain and onto buses. At least one bus load of spectators from Burnaby Mountain missed the start of competition because they were picked-up almost 90 minutes late.

“Cypress is like your special child, your special child that’s bright and talented and good-looking and causes you all kinds of worries, but they’re still your special child,” said VANOC communications vice-president Renee Smith-Valade.

Smith-Valade downplayed troubles with the Olympic bus network. Media, spectators and athletes have reported a variety of problems, mainly with 300 public transit buses imported from California by subcontractor Edison Transportation. Buses have broken down or gotten lost because of drivers unfamiliar with the region. She said another 100 buses are being added to the fleet of 1,100 vehicles.

“We’ve spent years planning the transportation system and the geographic nature of our Games region presents some unique challenges with all of the transportation up to the mountain venues being by bus,” Smith-Valade said.

“Mechanical failures happen and sometimes it’s human failure, you can have people that don’t show up for a shift -- and that happens in any organization -- bus drivers who get sick and the odd bus driver who gets lost.”

Four Host First Nations members missed the start of the Friday opening ceremony, but Smith-Valade said they were in vehicles rerouted because of an anti-Olympic protest.

VANOC budgeted $52.3 million for bus systems in its May 2007 operations budget and hired Orlando, Fla.-based Gameday Management Group, which was involved in the much-criticized 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The Vancouver 2010 transportation plan was originally supposed to be completed by the end of 2007.

“There’s thousands of buses, there are hundreds of drivers, there are nine transportation hubs, so it’s a big beast to manage,” Smith-Valade said. “We want to get it right, we’re having some teething issues, no question.”

Where are they now?

Some called them Smurfs. Others simply "Blue Jackets". They were the core employees of the Vancouver Olympic committee. Many of them gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre for a reunion on Feb. 12, after the Olympic cauldron on Jack Poole Plaza was re-activated.

VANOC executives and management have gone their separate ways. They appear to have followed three different paths. Some are continuing in the world of sport, others were appointed to senior positions with British Columbia Crown corporations while several have embarked boldly on new ventures.


CEO John Furlong is now chairman of the Own the Podium advisory board and a director of Whistler Blackcomb, which is now traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Furlong's main source of income, for the short-term, appears to be as a motivational speaker. His Patriot Hearts memoir is key to that strategy.

Furlong is a former CEO of SportBC, the province's umbrella for amateur sports organizations. VANOC's vice-president of sport Tim Gayda was appointed CEO last year.

The only senior VANOC executive to have a senior appointment with the International Olympic Committee is chief financial officer John McLaughlin. McLaughlin was appointed to the 2018 Winter Games evaluation commission. The temporary appointment means trips to Annecy, France, Munich, Germany and PyeongChang, South Korea. McLaughlin is the commission's financial specialist.

Director of ice sports/general manager hockey Denis Hainault has a similar job with Sochi 2014.

Paula Kim was in charge of press operations at B.C. Place Stadium, the opening, closing and medals ceremonies venue. She is senior communications manager with the International Triathlon Union in North Vancouver, the only summer Olympic sports federation based in Canada.

Brand creative director Ali Gardiner is now vice-president of marketing and game presentation with Canucks Sports and Entertainment. Lawyer Chris Gear now heads CSE's legal department.

Canada's next sports mega-event is the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. Vice-president of workforce Allen Vansen is the senior vice-president of transportation, security and village for the Toronto 2015 organizing committee. He was appointed days after the riot-marred G20 summit.

Director of merchandising and licensing Dennis Kim was appointed the Canadian Olympic Committee's executive director brand marketing.


Top level executives have made their way into jobs with British Columbia Crown corporations. This demonstrates the influence of Premier Gordon Campbell.

Construction executive vice-president Dan Doyle: BC Hydro chairman was first in summer 2009. Deputy CEO Dave Cobb followed in May 2010 to become the power monopoly's CEO. Cobb, in turn, hired VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade, Chris Brumwell, Greg
Alexis and Jennifer Young in a major overhaul of the communications department.

Chief Information Officer Ward Chapin now has the same job with ICBC. Workforce and sustainability executive vice-president Donna Wilson is Vice-president of industry services and sustainability at WorkSafeBC. Government relations and celebrations executive vice-president David Guscott is the E-Comm 9-1-1 CEO.


The best advice imparted by Furlong to the Sochi 2014 organizing committee at the June 2010 knowledge transfer sessions in Russia was to "stick together."

That's precisely what several VANOC employees have done, creating their own post-Games clusters.

Vice-president marketing Andrea Shaw is managing partner of the Twentyten Group. Shaw's company in the Landing in Gastown became the post-October 2010 home of VANOC, or what was left of it. Coincidentally, Twentyten Group's office is one floor below where the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation was based when it was awarded the 2010 Games on July 2, 2003.

Shaw is joined by commercial rights manager Bill Cooper, who is a senior partner with Twentyten. Associates include Mags Doehler, Breedon Grauer, Catherine Locke, Rob Mullowney, Kala Polman-Tuin and Stephanie Cornish.

Paralympics director Dena Coward leads a group at the Rick Hansen Foundation's Man in Motion 25th Anniversary Celebration. Torch relays director Jim Richards is coordinating Hansen's international tour. VANOC communications staffers Suzanne Reeves, Mary Fraser and John Gibson have joined them.

Vice-president of partnerships and strategy Taleeb Noormohamed is president of e-learning concern Serebra Learning Corp. and running for North Vancouver federal Liberal Party nomination. Director of ticketing Chris Stairs is Serebra's vice-president of sales, while manager of partnerships Matthew Bonguorno is sales manager and torch relay communications manager Jenee Elborne is director of communications.

Did I miss anyone? Let me know:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 13, 2010

Vancouver Police and their RCMP cohorts responded to a protest that turned violent on the second day of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The Feb. 13 protest came close to the Olympic family hotel, Westin Bayshore, and found its way to Robson Street, site of the famous 1994 Stanley Cup riot (Bob Mackin photo).

Olympic city streets strangled by protests
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER: Rain postponed downhill skiing on Saturday, but not freestyle protesting.

A march on the eve of Valentine’s Day dubbed 2010 Heart Attack drew 200 people who, according to a poster, wanted to “block the arteries of capitalism.” Windows were broken at the Bay store which is the site of the Olympic Superstore and Canada Olympic House. More skirmishes happened a block away from the heavily secured Westin Bayshore where International Olympic Committee members are staying.

Traffic, including public transit buses and VANOC vehicles, was blocked and then rerouted. Protesters splintered into smaller groups. More than 50 people chanting “no Olympics on stolen native land” were surrounded by an estimated 100
Vancouver Police officers in riot gear on Robson Street near hotels hosting the Slovakian and Japanese Olympic committees. Local cops were joined by at least 80 RCMP members. Together they prevented the throng from advancing eastward toward Thurlow where the infamous June 14, 1994 Stanley Cup riot started after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the New York Rangers.

Robson Street traffic returned to normal near noon. Vancouver Police later reported seven arrests.

“We are totally in support of people having peaceful demonstrations,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “Violence we will not accept."

Alissa Westergard-Thorpe of the Olympic Resistance Network claimed police agitated protesters and didn’t pay attention to the vandalism.

“The people that were arrested weren’t involved in the minor amounts of property damage,” Westergard-Thorpe said. “It serves their interest to imply that they’re powerless and to allow people to commit property damage.”

Among the protesters were Thomas Malenfant and David Cunningham of the radical Anti-Poverty Committee. Cunningham was arrested for jumping onstage at the unveiling of the Olympic countdown clock at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Feb. 12, 2007.

The protest came the morning after 2,000 people marched through downtown Vancouver and blocked a street outside the opening ceremony at B.C. Place Stadium. Two Vancouver Police officers were injured by flying objects. One man was arrested for assault.

Civil libertarian and University of B.C. Prof. Michael Byers said Vancouver Police “exercised commendable restraint” on Friday. “It was a good day for democracy,” he said.

A coalition of citizens’ groups opposes the Games because they say it has caused homelessness, poverty, environmental degradation and public debt. The annual march in memory of murdered and missing women is scheduled for Sunday afternoon in the Downtown Eastside.

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