Regional Business News
regarding the 2010 Olympics
in British Columbia, Canada
OlyBLOG is for businesses across Canada,
especially in Vancouver / Whistler and throughout B.C. We also
hope companies in Alberta and United States (i.e. Washington, Oregon,
Idaho, Montana and California) will find OlyBLOG interesting and informative.
Singelton Urquhart Conference
John Furlong, CEO, VANOC gave the keynote speech at the Singleton
Urquhart conference held at the Sutton Place Hotel on April 2, 2004.
Other panelists included Jim Mitchell Vice President of Capital Projects
Inc. (check out the splash page of their website), David Thom, Managing
Director, IBI Group,
Richard Fyfe, Director, Partnerships
BC, Alan Hartley, Director and Principal, Stantec,
Maria D'Archangelo, LLB, Ministry
of the Attorney General, Derek Holloway, Senior VP, Encon
Group, George Haddow, Manager, BC
Hydro and a host of Singleton lawyers led by John Singleton, QC, Partner,
The conference referred often to issues of Risk Management. Many of the
lawyers and insurance companies spoke in detail about the importance of
negotiating and executing Olympic construction proposals that were accurate
and realistic. The overriding theme throughout the day was to treat Olympic
construction contracts with special consideration.
John Singleton drove the point home succinctly when he cautioned the room
full of architects, engineers, contractors and developers that they would
have billions of people around the world watching as we built the Olympics
and that reputations could be irreparably harmed if schedules and cost
overages spiraled out of control.
It's bad enough when a jobsite is shut down in normal circumstances and
contractors and investors lose money, but when it occurs during an Olympic
project the reputation of the Games and the region including all businesses
is at stake. Time is of the essence. All you have to do is look to Athens
to see the ramifications. It can get very nasty for everyone, including
the public living in the Olympic region.
John Furlong gave a rousing keynote address and spoke of how important
it would be to start on time and stay on schedule. He played heavily on
our sense of pride when he shared with us that if the sport facilities
were in operation a couple of years before 2010, it would give Canadian
athletes an opportunity to train in the facilities, which could in turn
produce more gold medals for Canada. Hometown advantage counts!
It was great to hear John support Canadian athletes. He spoke like a loyal,
dedicated sports leader and coach, but as a business person I would have
also liked to hear him say that having the facilities open early would
give the region an opportunity to lease time to foreign athletes. Revenue
generated could counter potential overage costs that in other Olympic
regions have ultimately been born by taxpayers. Salt Lake City taxpayers
footed overages of $400 million. There's a legacy.
Revenue generated from renting facilities in the GVRD to foreign athletes
could be sizable, certainly not in the magnitude of a summer event like
Sydney, but it's also important to consider supplementary revenues generated
by small and midsize businesses who could provide secondary services and
products to athletes and their support teams while they train. Furlong
made it clear the 'sport' part of the Olympics were his primary concern,
but for many in the room though there were more important business issues
To his credit, Furlong worked the construction crowd well and got everyone
thinking hard about their responsibility. At the end of his presentation
he took questions from the audience. I asked him if he thought that reputation
played a role and if dealing with the media was going to be an important
consideration. I framed the question using his personal experience by
referring to the unfair criticism he's received from the press over the
last few weeks. News articles had us questioning his capabilities even
before he made the cut. After hearing John speak I had a completely different
regard for the man.
Can he do it? Yeah, no problem, as long as he represents everyone equally
including small and midsize business.
When I inadvertently put him on the spot by asking how he felt about being
treated unfairly by media, he said he's been so busy he hasn't had time
to read the paper. The crowd were with him and roared with laughter, which
by the way was the only laugh I heard in that very serious room all day.
You won me over that morning John and you'll have my continued support
- as long as you remember to represent small and midsize business in the
run to the Games.
Based on my perception of Furlong through the media I had serious concerns
about whether he could go the distance. Once I heard and saw him in action
my fears were allayed. As long as he surrounds himself with capable executives,
including those who understand the challenges of operating small and midsize
businesses . . . I think he'll do a great job.
Hilary Lindh, Ecologist and Olympian (3-time ski medalist) also
spoke at the conference. Lindh, who was a member of the Salt Lake City
Organizing Committee Board of Trustees, warned us how quickly construction
plans can go awry when time is running out. She had a list of examples
regarding ecological issues that were swept aside in Utah at the eleventh
hour. One in particular regarded public transportation over the Wasatch
Mountains between Salt Lake and Park Cities.
The original plans called for a bus system to shuttle sports fans, athletes
and support teams to Olympic sites over the mountains. Due to a string
of events, planned highway improvements and busses never materialized
and thousands of people drove their cars instead which caused not only
problems on the severely congested and battered roads, but also complications
on the Park City side because there wasn't adequate parking. Lindh shared
with us that the excuse offered by the SLOC regarding why the transportation
plan never materialized was that during the three week period of the Games
they couldn't find busses to lease anywhere in the country. Ironically
in Utah, as time progressed during the construction phase Olympic related
ecological budgets were cut from $5.5 million to $1 million. Go figure.
Anyone planning a conference regarding 2010 would do well to have Hilary
on the panel. She offers an interesting and thought provoking ecological
*Ed. Note: We invested two 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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Learn more about the challenges small
businesses face. Leverage
Olympic organizations are
BIG BUSINESS MACHINES that attract corporations like Kodak,
CocaCola, McDonald's, Wal*Mart, etc. Consequently, VANOC (Vancouver
Organizing Committee) will be stretched thin trying to also develop ways
to assist small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum. Surprisingly,
many people don't realize the event can also be lucrative for smaller
businesses including agriculture, manufacturers, entertainment, technology,
retail & obviously tourism, even when they don't have products
or services that appeal to Olympic fans or serve a direct Olympic need.
The information we share here is invaluable in helping
small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum.
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