Regional Business News
regarding the 2010 Olympics
in British Columbia, Canada
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Originally published August 1, 2004
Furlong Gets CBC Rope-A-Doped
other day I wrote that "Mainstream Media Missed the Mark" in
reference to not reporting the whole story regarding the financial downside
of Athens -- a $12 billion deficit. Each Greek household will have to
come up with $75,000 US.
Mainstream media, especially in B.C. wants to stay positive about the
games. Unfortunately, they seem to be supporting 2010 in the same way
media backed Bush in the first few months of the attacks on Afghanistan
and Iraq - unconditionally. However, as the public now realizes, time
eventually percolates truth to the surface in spite of some mainstream
media pandering to public sentiment.
A few OlyBLOG readers and one media rep took exception to my comments
and let me know that Rosa
Marchitelli of the CBC had VANOC
CEO John Furlong against the ropes in a Canada Now television broadcast
on August 30. I saw it too, but it was broadcast after I posted the "Mainstream
Media Missed the Mark" piece below. When Furlong was asked if 2010
would suffer the same economic disaster as Athens he tapped danced and
remained evasive even after repeated questioning from Marchitelli. She
wasn't hostile or overly aggressive, but she was insistent and in fact
pleasant in her approach. I spoke to a CBC rep who told me the "Canada
Now" piece probably won't be streamed on their website, but if I
wanted to purchase a copy I could do so by calling Bowdens
at 800.363.1281 - re: file ROSADEBRIEF.
Hooray for the CBC. Considering they are the official Olympic television
broadcaster in Canada this was a bold move. Maybe they felt they had to
repay viewers after subjecting us to too, too much commentary between
Olympic sporting events. Next time we need more coverage of events and
less Brian Williams airtime.
Regular readers know that OlyBLOG isn't a cheer leading section. It's
a place to come for business and promotion news relating to 2010. Sometimes
business news can be harsh. In fact most of the time business news is
harsh, and especially when the business is entertainment masquerading
as sport. Which brings me back to John Furlong. Is he ever going to figure
out he's in the entertainment business? I hope so, because his and our
success depend on it.
During the Marchitelli grilling Furlong looked and sounded like a cat
with a mouth full of feathers when he was asked if 2010 was going to saddle
taxpayers with a whopping bill. He literally did not know how to effectively
deflect the question, and instead prowled in a circle like 'Sylvester
the Cat' looking for a place to spit. Dick Pound's criticism of Furlong
is starting to ring prophetic.
John Furlong needs better media training. Marchitelli's question was simple
and he should have not only seen it coming, but also been prepared to
answer without flinching. What in hell was he thinking? Furlong needs
a media coach with more international experience. Jeff
Ansell for example is a well respected media trainer who rubs shoulders
with U.S. presidents, plus he coaches a long list of CEOs and executives
across Canada and United States including luxury resort hotel executives
here in Vancouver. Jeff's favorite words of wisdom for anyone being interviewed
are to tell the truth and explain how you're going to deal with the problem.
'My advice' is to sound genuinely concerned, and not, under any circumstances,
portray yourself as being evasive.
Furlong should not have lent credibility to a problem that does not and
may never exist. He should have seized the opportunity to reassure taxpaying
television viewers by telling them what he is going to do and how is going
to do it. Instead he was evasive and visibly exasperated with Marchitelli
and made it sound like he could not be counted on to control costs for
the Winter Games, which I'm sure was not his intent. If he would have
answered it like the $300,000-a-year executive he is paid to be it wouldn't
have been an issue, but thanks to his faltering he left CBC viewers wondering
how much we are going to have to shell out to host 2010. It's not a good
feeling for a province that is finally starting to get back on its feet.
Furlong could have also shared that British Columbians have much less
of a fiscal challenge than they think regarding 2010. First, the Summer
Games is an extravaganza about three times the size of the Winter Games
in almost all respects including number of athletes, events, facilities,
sponsorship and licensing revenue, size of audience, etc. Secondly, we
just saw what happened in Athens -- that alone is enough to keep John
Furlong and every member of his executive team awake at night and working
harder to control costs, but still put on a world class event that will
do Canada proud.
From the very beginning I've emphasized that everyone including taxpayers
and SMBs must come out of 2010 economically healthy. Several months ago
Furlong tipped me off at an all day conference hosted by law firm Singleton
Urquhart that he might be over his head. The primary focus of Furlong's
message in his keynote address to a room full of influential architects,
engineers and developers was his personal quest to win medals in 2010.
Instead of offering the room something economically tangible to grasp,
he performed a cheerleading routine. Maybe now you're starting to appreciate
why it was so ridiculous to send such a huge VANOC contingent to Athens,
especially considering it cost us $380,000.
Furlong is doing some things right, and I'm still in his corner, but there
is no doubt he has to move much quicker and he has to widen his peripheral
vision. He also has to more seriously consider the Games from an international
perspective and conduct himself accordingly. Regional vision is probably
one of his greatest weaknesses. You can hear it in his voice. Furlong
should have made it very clear during the CBC interview that B.C. has
the federal government as a partner and that provincial taxpayers are
not in this alone. We are not stupid and most of us know taxpayers are
going to have to absorb some cost. Almost every single Olympic region
does. Ideally it would be nice if corporate sponsors were not allowed
to make any profit until all costs for the Games have been recouped, but
so far I seem to be the only one singing this song.
This is one of the reasons B.C. needs to elect better politicians. Instead
of all the whining about the east ignoring the west we need smarter politicians
who know how to negotiate a better position for us. We also have to understand
that the IOC is not our partner in the true sense of the word. The IOC's
primary mandate is to make sure the image of the Games is well represented
even if it is at the expense of the host region. If it was any other way
do you think Athens would have ended up with a 15 billion USD debt ? Where
was the IOC when Greece first fumbled the ball? Partners look out for
each other. The president of the Athens Olympic Organizing Committee (ATHOC)
should be chasing down NBC and all the sponsors who made a killing on
the backs of Greek taxpayers and small businesses.
John Furlong should have looked straight into the CBC camera and taxpayers'
living rooms and said, "I'm not going to let anyone, including the
IOC intimidate Vancouver, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada or me into
overspending for 2010. We will do what we have to in order to present
the greatest sporting event possible, and we will not be swayed by anyone.
We will do it on Canada's terms. It's not what we spend -- it is what
we get out of it. I will work hard to ensure that whatever we spend we
will get back many times over, and at the end of the day 'ALL' Canadians
will benefit economically as well as promotionally and patriotically."
Unfortunately, John might not have thought deeply enough about putting
it in these terms if all he's pondered so far is a plan for gold medals
-- and not economic success for everyone.
*Ed. Note: We invested over three years and a six-figure budget researching
Olympic organization relationships with sponsors, contractors, suppliers,
partners, etc. The results surprised us too -- mouseover below
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