The Mayor once said “The Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby.” He also believes nothing is impossible.
DRAPEAU'S GREAT GAMES
The Mayor once said “The Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby.” He also believes nothing is impossible.
Twenty minutes or so along Sherbrooke Street East from downtown Montreal. Maisonneuve Park has turned to winter muck. A hill has been broken and spread. A dozen, maybe more, cranes stand over piles of lumber like flamingos working up to a game of pick-up-sticks. Huge trucks grind the new snow into the frozen mud. and the friction from their tires leaves a trail like melted black plastic. It is not a pretty sight.
A year and a half from now. excluding any unforeseen acts of God or unions, 115 acres of Maisonneuve Park become Olympic Park, and where today there is mud and broken boards there will then be two rather remarkable buildings. The more impressive of these, if completed in time, will be the elliptical-shaped one just to the left, the one looking like a seashell with a snail’s head rearing from it. To get an idea of the size, know that the snail’s head rises 552 feet and underneath the tower sits a full-sized Olympic pool, and bleachers.
During the last two weeks of July. 1976. when Montreal hosts the twenty-first Olympiad. 2,240.000 spectators will enter that stadium. 300,000 more will sit around the pool, and 160,000 will attend cycling events at the smaller building in the drawing, the one that looks like a beached manta ray but is called the velodrome. That same park will cope with 400,000 people a day over those two weeks.
At that time the Olympic story will become the 350 or so gold medals that will be presented to the winners in the 21 Olympic sports. Right now. though, the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games is a story of financial wizardry the likes of which this country has never witnessed.
If the staging of the Olympics is pulled off — and even the games’ strongest critics have begun to concede it might be, though they still maintain it will show a financial loss — then the glory must once again be given, however reluctantly, to Mayor Jean Drapeau, the man behind the games.
When Jean Drapeau made his pitch in Amsterdam a few years back, he promised that “the Olympics should not become an astronomic enterprise.” A cost figure of $80 million was bandied about, later revised to $126 million, jumped to $310 million, and most recently rose to $653 million. The 1972 Munich Olympics, which were supposed to cost $150 million, are said to have cost at least $600 million, and there are many who believe Drapeau will soar as high as a billion. Even so, revenues have also risen (though at the end of the year were estimated to be falling behind rising costs). We’re still praying his worship wasn’t joking when he announced. “The Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby.”
When Drapeau approached the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the right to stage the 1976 contest, he had firm warnings from both Ottawa and the province of Quebec that he could not expect help from the taxpayers. (When Munich's mayor went after the games he knew he could count
Roy MacGregor is an associate editor of Maclean’s
"THE OLYMPICS WILL BE READY," SAY!
on help from the federal government and from the province of Bavaria. Yet Drapeau went ahead, having nothing more to show for collateral than, as Montreal sportswriter John Robertson put it, “the holes in his underwear.” What Drapeau did have was an economic bedside manner that seemed to be saying Trust me, everything’s going to be all right — which was an interesting
approach for someone who for two years forgot to file his personal income tax. But he got the Olympics.
Over a polished Victorian table in City Hall’s Salon de la Mairie, the mayor spoke of his self-financing scheme: “It simply came to me. I’d been studying it and I could feel it in my bones that it would work. You see, self-financing is like a tap. If we keep the tap on until the bath is full, there will be no problem — just don’t cut it off too early.”
The taps have been turned full on just across the courtyard from City Hall. Here, in the old Palais de Justice, the self-financing scheme is programmed by COJO (Comité Organisateur de Jeux Olympiques), the committee set up by Drapeau in agreement with the International Olympic Committee to run the Montreal games. The president of COJO is Roger Rousseau, and COJO will ultimately decide just how much of a deficit the Canadian taxpayer will have to make up.
By July 17, 1976, when the games begin, COJO will have produced 60 million commemorative coins out of 2,600 tons of silver, and gross sales are expected to reach $750 million, with COJO raking in $250 million for the Olympics. For the first time the coins are being marketed outside the host country, and that has led to a few embarrassments, such as the ad placed in Money magazine which read “Buy Silver Olympic Coins And Help The U.S. Olympic Team Win Gold.” But aside from those
small pimples, it’s been a resounding success. Additional revenue will come from the sale of Olympic stamps (about $10 million) and ticket sales will bring in about $15 million.
But Drapeau’s financial salvation, if he is somehow saved, will probably be the Olympic Lottery. COJO initially projected that it would bring in $32.5 million, and people laughed, but all indications are that the lottery will bring in $150 million, probably much more.
The coins and the lottery are the stories everyone hears now and will hear even more before the games commence. One story you will not hear much about, though it does have a significant role to play in the money scheme, is the tale of why the secretaries in the COJO building drink Coca-Cola during breaks.
They pay a dime for the drinks admittedly, but it’s only money toward the social fund. The drinks are courtesy of Coca-Cola, and the company had to pay $1.3 million for the privilege of supplying them. During the games the athletes too will have all the free Coke they wish, but, more important, during that two weeks, thirsty visitors to Olympic Park will quickly discover Coca-Cola is the only soft-drink vendor on the site.
Such deals as this are the responsibility of Gerald M. Snyder, COJO vicepresident in charge of revenue. His office furniture — lavish but mostly tasteless — belongs to Eaton’s. The tasteful part of his office, two oil paintings, come courtesy of Montreal’s Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Snyder, a former RCAF sergeant who is a formidable force in Jean Drapeau’s Civic Party (thus illustrating the inseparableness of the Mayor’s office and COJO), runs his program on a scrapyard philosophy: it maintains that every part of the Olympics has a potential buyer. To this end, the COJO logo (a graphic “M” above the five Olympic rings, designed by a Canadian, Georges Huel) has been offered for the advertising use of companies in return for such help as the companies might see fit to offer. It is tht first time ever that corporations have been invited to participate in such a way — they’ve never before been allowed to use the Olympics in their advertising — and they’re literally lining up to offer their gifts.
Swiss Time (Omega and Longines) will provide two million dollars in timing devices; Tetley will supply tea; Parker will give pens. And so on — just for the chance to use the COJO logo in their ads. Snyder even has programs for companies that cannot directly associate with athletic prowess. Molson’s, for ex-
ample, has already sent five trucks out on a two-year odyssey designed to inform the rest of Canada about the Olympics, distributing a book that says, among other things, “Today, in a society generally and willingly dehumanizing itself for the sake of unlimited and aimless consumption, the wholesome side of sport is too often overlooked.”
There are certain other privileges apart from use of the logo. Canadian General Electric, for example, will supply $400,000 worth of appliances for the Olympic Village and in turn gets the right to purchase 3,000 tickets for its executives and special friends. (Tickets for the rest of us will be distributed sometime this year through a lottery system.)
The questionable side of Snyder’s enterprise is that it sets a precedent for all future Olympics. We’ve begun a wholesale sellout that will continue because it’s successful, and the games will take one more giant step toward being more a competition between countries for the right to stage them than a competition between athletes for medals.
The happy side of Snyder’s program
is that it, like other Olympic financial programs, is shockingly successful. The original goal of this small program was three million dollars; according to Snyder the final tally will be “probably $25 million.” This is heartening news for taxpayers, though Conservative Health and Welfare critic Otto Jelinek still maintains Ottawa has set aside some $200 million to help cover anticipated Olympic losses, and it’s generally conceded that a deficit of at least $250 million will show up unless there is a drastic cutback in construction — which seems possible.
But the issue of financing is going to mean very little unless the facilities are ready. Drapeau’s biggest threat is no longer money, it is time. He promised that the velodrome racetrack would be
MtAPEAU. "THERE'S NOTHING TO FEAR "
ready in time for last August’s world cycling championships, but it wasn’t. A cement strike destroyed the timetable and the facility isn’t ready yet. This past November, one contractor, who refused to be named, had this to say: “Even if there’s no more strikes, it’s a longshot that we’re going to finish in time.”
The construction is of direct concern to the Mayor due to some fancy footwork between the city and COJO. First of all, the city arranged with the International Olympic Committee and with Canada’s National Olympic Committee that central responsibility for the preparation and operation of the games would be vested in the organizing committee, COJO. COJO then elected to delegate back to the city the preparation of plans and specifications, and the construction and modification of city properties. So the Mayor not only brought the games, he’s building them.
“The Olympics will be ready,” he argues. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. No Canadian working there will accept the responsibility for the games not being on time — Canadians are too proud. The workers will prove to the rest of the world that when Canada tackles a challenge, Canada succeeds.” Whether or not we will is a matter of much speculation. The one man who could give a qualified — and probably unbiased — view is Colonel Edward Churchill, “the man who built Expo.” Churchill came back to Montreal last summer to examine the situation for the Montreal Star. “Schedules planned . . . appear logical and realistic,” he reported, and had but one, mild criticism: “I would have pushed ... to take the pressure off the end.”
The Star had become frightened at the end of May when Drapeau took a drastic time-saving step by deciding to put an end to public bidding for tenders at the site. City council voted 42-4 to vest power in its seven-man executive
committee to award, without public tender, up to $246 million in contracts.
“We have open bidding,” counters the Mayor. “But on private invitation. We are keeping in mind the virtues of bidding, but not the formalities.”
What he means is that the executive council decides what contractors have the abilities and materials to fulfill a contract, and these companies are asked to submit a bid. The public learns nothing. Oddly enough, it’s a procedure endorsed by Colonel Churchill: “What the Mayor is attempting to do, as far as I can find out, is to collapse the time by having the contractors on board during the design time so he starts to build before the designs are anywhere near completion. This is known as ‘fast track’ and quite a recognizable thing.”
The suspicions that naturally arise as to how and to whom contracts are awarded are only one part of the massive intrigue that surrounds the Olympics. So dismal are the lines of communication between those staging the Olympics and the public, that when a reporter asked Lord Killanin, head of the IOC. when reporters would learn of COJO’s plans, Killanin replied, “Like me, no doubt, by reading the papers.” Probably the greatest uncertainty concerns the Olympic television rights. Sportswriter John Robertson was able to prove — and won a National Newspaper Award for his efforts — that the bids CBS, NBC and ABC were invited to tender were a sham, that the rights had actually been awarded three weeks before to ABC for $25 million. The newspaper could not, however, prove the strong suspicion that some five million dollars had been passed under a table somewhere, though a top official at NBC did admit he’d been approached to make a contribution to the provincial Liberal party.
Other grey areas concern the Olympic Village (the last picture on this page).
The consortium the city selected to build it, Zaralego, was unable for many months to get total financing. Eventually, CMHC agreed to cover Zaralego’s first mortgage of $19 million, and COJO assumed the second mortgage. Total cost has been estimated at $32 million, but there are those who say the real cost will be four times that. Since COJO is responsible for the second mortgage, any financial disaster would be theirs and, ultimately, the city’s.
Clearly, what the final costs of the Olympics will be we may never know. All we do know about the games is that they are probably the final leg in Jean Drapeau’s Trilogy: Expo, Man and His World, and now this. From his more than 91% majority in 1970, the Mayor’s votes fell off to only 55% in the November municipal election, and whereas his Civic Party controlled all council seats before the election fully a third of them fell to a reform group, the Montreal Citizen’s Movement. The change, obviously, is coming.
One of the main forces behind that “defeat” is Nick Auf der Maur, a 32-
year-old CBC commentator turned politician. He represents the new mood at City Hall: “We used to be known for good things — things like French charm — but now it’s going to be the biggest Holiday Inn in the world. After the Olympics, Drapeau will have to move the Vatican to Montreal. It’ll have to be on that scope — he can’t concern himself with the mundane things.”
Still, if the Olympics are brought off, Jean Drapeau will have once again done the impossible. But why he does these things he doesn’t even know himself: “Once a man is dead it doesn’t matter that he left a monument. It won’t be long before the Olympic structures belong to the people and Drapeau will be forgotten.”
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