OLYMPICS

THE B.C. SOFT SELL

Ken MacQueen March 4 2002
OLYMPICS

THE B.C. SOFT SELL

Ken MacQueen March 4 2002

THE B.C. SOFT SELL

They're everywhere at the Salt Lake Winter Games: genial, clean-cut, lit from within by their message of inspiration. No, the Mormons are too busy trading Olympic pins to proselytize. These missionaries are selling the International Olympic Committee on the virtues of awarding the 2010 Games to Vancouver and Whistler.

The Vancouver bid committee spent $700,000 to send 60 local politicians, athletes and technical staff to Utah for an Olympic schmooze. Vancouver is among eight cities bidding for the Games, including Bern-Montreux, Switzerland and Salzburg-Kitzbuehel, Austria. New rules after the Salt Lake bid scandal put strict limits on contending cities. No more lavish gifts or five-star junkets for IOC members. At this early stage-the vote is in July, 2003-even overt campaigning is taboo. 2

So members of the IOC have grown used to “bumping” into Canadians while they eat breakfast at their heavily fortified Little America Hotel. Former IOC boss Juan Antonio Samaranch

looked up from his 6 a.m. workout one day to find Canada’s Heritage Minister Sheila Copps chugging away on the neighbouring treadmill. Vancouver popped into the conversation. “We’ve taken a lowkey approach and it’s worked well for us,” says John Furlong, chief operating officer for the bid. “We’ve been warmly received.”

Mounting a bid can be a costly, and heartbreaking exercise, as both Toronto and Quebec City have discovered. Vancouver-Whistler has budgeted $34 million, underwritten by federal, provincial and business support.

IQ Win the Games and the cost exceeds $1 billion for such facilities as ski jumps, a speed-skating oval, expanded convention centres in Vancouver and Whistler and improvements in the precarious highway between the two

centres. “This is not a government spending project,” insists bid president Jack Poole. “This is a government collecting project.” A provincial study estimates the Games could generate more than 200,000 jobs, up to $2.5 billion in tax revenue and a tourism boom.

Big numbers, but consider the daunting price tag in Salt Lake City: organizers predict a break-even budget of US$1.94 billion. Part of that is offset by a staggering US$860 million raised in corporate sponsorships. Salt Lake’s very success raises fears that mid-sized countries are being priced out of the market, a concern shared by the IOC. Canadian IOC member Dick Pound is chairing a committee attempting the thankless task of “de-scaling” the Games. But how much can be cut in an age of massive security concerns remains to be seen.

Then there’s the unknown impact of the figureskating flap. Canada gained major sympathy points, but did it lose the votes of the embarrassed sports hierarchies of France, Russia and its former satellites? When it comes to cutting deals, figure skating has nothing to teach the IOC.

Ken MacQueen