Business News Strategies and Opportunities in Olympics Sport Regions

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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.

Maurice Cardinal - TORCH STOKER

Maurice CardinalRob Howatson recently interviewed me for a BC Business Magazine [matrix] feature titled 'Torch Stoker' The interview with Rob was interesting, but the photo shoot for the article left me a bit, well . . . cold. Photographer Fred Fraser brought in a huge block of ice and had me do a precarious and slippery balancing act on it. After an hour or so (avec frozen buns) we had the photo you see here. In retrospect I'm amazed I was still smiling - good work Fred! I never made the cover this time around, but maybe next time I'll do so while perched on an iceberg.

The piece briefly addresses the apathy of local companies regarding the 2010 Olympics and how architects and other companies in the GVRD aren't gearing up for, or getting as excited about the 2010 Olympics as fast as, or with the intensity it warrants.

Coincidentally, a more in depth cover article with a similar perspective was published in a previous BCBusiness Magazine issue. It was written by Paul Willcocks and entitled, "What's WRONG with BC? Maybe It's You" The feature article supports our findings that BC companies in general are a little lackadaisical when it comes to capitalizing on business opportunities.

Shades of ATHENS! One of the main reasons Athens is having financial difficulty is because they procrastinated and didn't take seriously the amount of time needed to ramp up. You snooze, you lose. Don't let anyone tell you it was because of complex archeological challenges or unexpected construction events. Greece knew exactly what they were up against before they put a bid together. Mistakenly though, they thought the world and the Olympics would bow to them. I ask you, would Bill Gates or Wal-Mart bow to anyone? Neither does the big box Olympic machine.

Based on almost twenty years of managing big-buck high profile partnership/sponsorship deals between large corporations, I don't see how an agreement between the IOC and the hosting region can be regarded as a true 'partnership'. Maybe theoretically, but practically, no way. The IOC is the driving force, and once VANOC signed the Olympic agreement they should have considered it a healthy, but aggressive competition against the IOC every step of the way to win the most for our region - and if they didn't they should because that's how the IOC looks at it. Hopefully it ends up relatively balanced, but without doubt the IOC does everything in their power to ensure their agenda is represented above all others, even if it is at the expense of the region hosting the Games. If anyone is foolish enough to believe otherwise they deserve what they end up with. In the business world you get what you negotiate, not what you deserve. There is no fair.

Willcocks begins the "What's Wrong with BC? Maybe it's You" BCBusiness article by stating that British Columbians don't work as hard as other people in Canada - specifically, as hard as the "workaholics" in Toronto. He goes on to say British Columbians justify their lack of effort because they desire a more bucolic lifestyle and opines that they care more about quality of life and not "crass success." I'm assuming Willcocks is from B.C. to be making these pointed statements and even though I agree with him in many respects, as a former Torontonian and recent Vancouver transplant I don't want to perpetuate the 'myth' that all easterners are boorish, so I couch some of my opinions carefully (see the features above that I've been writing since mid 2003). The reality is that Willcocks is correct when he writes that if B.C. residents want to know why they are a 'have-not' province (his words) they have to look in the mirror. Willcocks is a take no prisoners kind of guy.

One of the first things I noticed when I moved from Toronto is that Vancouverites do not keep as long hours as people in some other larger cities in Canada, and in some ways they are proud of this diminished industrious capacity. Whereas Torontonians wear workaholism like the Order of Canada or a war medal. At first I found the difference fascinating and resolved to adopt through osmosis a bit of the laid back west coast cool cachet myself. I wanted to fit in. Plus I thought, WOW! Live the good life and take it easy. How did I miss out on this Utopia for so long?

Unfortunately, people here are underpaid, soon to be house-poor and tax laden, and it is only going to get worse. The average Vancouverite doesn't have the luxuries and disposable income Torontonians abound in which means they have no choice but do the great outdoor thing because it is relatively cheap. Don't get too excited either about the purported booming job market here because part time jobs don't count. And don't even think of singing the 'Ottawa ignores us' rhetoric. You get what you negotiate. B.C. needs smarter politicians. Period. Victoria seems to be doing just fine. Nice city. Too bad they don't share some of the wealth with Vancouver or the rest of the province. We need politicians who know how to call a cab when they drink too much, and how to recognize when their staff are involved with drugs, drug smuggling and other illegal activities. Don't think for a moment it isn't embarrassing as a nation to watch the wild west in action in the year 2004. British Columbians might think they are operating in a void, but they are not. Canada and the rest of the world are watching, even more so now that 2010 is looming large on the horizon.

Personally, I've found it somewhat frustrating to deal with the average B.C. small or midsize business person when I knew the Olympics is a wait-for-no-one event that will trample everyone and everything in it's path. At first I thought the passive marketing sense of B.C. SMBs (small and midsize businesses) was driven by the laid back west coast cachet, but then I realized . . . SMBs are simply struggling to keep their heads above water. It's not that SMBs here lack initiative or they aren't proactive, the reality is that they lack capital to market and promote their businesses properly. It also didn't take long to figure out that the relaxed B.C. work ethic and the hyper steroid pumped Olympic organization wouldn't easily develop a symbiotic relationship. Something would suffer, and we all know it won't be the big box Olympic machine if they can help it.

The hopped up Olympic big box bull elephant has the capacity to trounce Vancouverites faster and with more conviction than Expo '86 ever did. If you were disappointed with what Expo '86 left in its wake wait until you see what the Olympics can do. Economically speaking, Expo '86 was two steps forward and three steps back. So you're on the map. Big deal if you don't have two pennies to rub together after it leaves town. Taxpayers and SMBs were sold a bill of goods. Everyone else in Canada seems to have recognized it, too bad it hasn't sunk in here yet.

The Olympics has the capacity to leave B.C. not only dazed and confused, but with a huge tax burden for good measure. All you have to do is look to Salt Lake City or Athens for a peek at our possible future. What could turn out to be be our worst nightmare is happening in Athens in broad daylight and in real time right before our eyes (BTW, half of which according to Vansterdam statistics are bloodshot - there's something to be proud of). Some insiders in Athens are projecting a 17 billion dollar debt. Greek Taxpayers will pick up the tab because it won't come from the IOC or anywhere else. That is the reality of what happens when you procrastinate.

Attitudes in B.C have to change at a core level. We have to take a serious look at drug abuse, drinking and driving, homelessness, caring for the mentally ill and political corruption. It's not good enough to say it happens in every other province, because at least until 2010, and whether you like it or not we will be looked upon as Canadian leaders. It's a responsibility that comes with the Olympic package. Wild west hick mentality is no longer cool and won't cut it if we want to headline on the world stage in 2010. The good thing is that most of Canada and the world doesn't know how out-of-balance things really are here. One year ago you probably thought Athens was an incredible city full of industrious people. In some regards it is, but when you pit it against the big box corporate Olympic machine chinks in the armor become readily apparent. Once the blindingly bright Olympic spotlight shone on them it revealed they were mismanaging the economic side and jeopardizing their opportunity. The IOC was overwhelmed with damage control even before the Games began and it got worse as time progressed. It was Salt Lake City all over again, but with a different crisis set. Do you see a trend here? It's like Athens said, cancer only happens to other people.

For example, at the eleventh hour Greeks were trying to decide what to do with the 15,000 stray dogs wandering the streets. At first they were going to kill them. No kidding. They were going to kill all the dogs. Politicians however vowed after a global outcry that they would round up the pooches and put them up in doggy kennels during the big event, but that was too expensive a proposition. Exactly how many kennels would they need? Will they simply put aggressive street dogs in large kennels and let them have a go at each other? Do the Greeks have 15,000 separate kennels, or even 3,800 so they can house four dogs at a time, or maybe 15 kennels for 1,000 street marauding canines? How many pups are going to be born in a few months after their incarceration and release?

As the Olympics approached the big question was, will the dogs be captured . . . or poisoned in the streets? If they are captured will they be fed and released back to the streets? Will the Greeks really put out more money for doggy hotels and food considering they are already projecting a 17 billion dollar debt. Athenians found poisoned dogs, sometimes as many as eighty at a time thrown in a heap in out of the way places. There's Olympic Spirit and a legacy to be proud of. In the end the Greeks allegedly decided to capture the dogs, neuter, inject and put them back on the streets - not sure what they were injected with though? Hopefully Vancouver won't struggle with the same quandary regarding the homeless in 2010.

After living in Vancouver for for a while I've also come to realize that B.C. media and politicians have to quit sniping Canadians outside of British Columbia. I've worked in every province in Canada and have never heard anyone anywhere across Canada criticize B.C. the way I hear media and politicians here criticize people in the rest of Canada. Quebec included. It is iconoclastic and shameful. It's been my experience that average Canadians express nothing but praise for B.C. Conversely, I've known for years to never reveal my Toronto roots when waiting for a table in a Vancouver restaurant, but until I lived here I didn't really appreciate how deep the resentment goes. The irony is that Vancouverites are some of the nicest, most friendly and happy people on the face of the earth. Unfortunately, they can also be very selective.

Edmontonians, Winnipeggers, Torontonians and Haligonians are Canadians and should be respected and not fodder for cheap, unfounded and unwarranted jibes by B.C. Media and politicians. The Olympics will provide a prime opportunity for B.C. To demonstrate we have the capacity to bring Canadians together. Sydney, whose 2000 Summer Olympics slogan was "FUN & GAMES" worked hard to encourage national pride. SMBs (small and midsize businesses) should look closely at what the Aussies did to galvanize their country. It takes a village to raise a child and if SMBs want to leverage Olympic momentum they have to do their part and get involved. Don't wait for the IOC or VANOC. Considering all that is going on in the world and the fact that the Olympics at its core represents peace and cooperation, it is incumbent upon all British Columbians to make their best effort to leverage Olympic momentum in the best Canadian way possible.

As I cautioned though, don't look for leadership from the IOC or the upper echelon regarding partnering and cooperation. These guys fight in public among themselves so you can imagine where you fit in the pecking order. For example, lawyer Dick Pound, former IOC vice president and current WADA president (World Anti-Doping Agency), publicly attacked VANOC CEO John Furlong's qualifications. Granted, Pound's sharp criticism emanated from his years of experience, but it was uncalled of him to send a blistering shot across Furlong's bow on the day Furlong's appointment as CEO VANOC was announced.

I hate to praise him, but Pound knows how to get his point across. He's been involved with the Olympics all his life, first as a young Olympic swimmer and now as a senior executive and lawyer. Even though he lacks diplomacy, he knows first hand how unforgiving the Olympics is and the devastating effect it can have on a region. Pound is not only a former IOC and current WADA representative, but also a proud Canadian and he wants to see a successful Canadian 2010 Games, which for him and all of us means that Vancouver/Whistler have to make this work.

Regardless of his motivations, Pound took a cheap shot at Furlong through the media and made it abundantly clear that if B.C. didn't want to play at Olympic standards we shouldn't have invited the Olympic bull into the our china shop. The Montreal lawyer feels that Furlong might not make a good Matador, but he didn't have the sense to express it properly and in a way that it would do some good. Instead he alienated a large part of the west. Pound's outbursts are part of the reason the Olympics lumbers under constant controversy. The sooner SMBs in British Colombia realize what they are dealing with the better they will be economically. Ignoring it or procrastination won't improve the situation or make it go away.

Here's the bottom line, if British Columbians and especially SMBs don't start very soon to take the Olympics seriously and gear up they will get stomped into the ground. SMBs are going to wake up one morning even more house-poor than they already are, living in puny 725 square foot "cozy" condos watching wealthy aggressive business people from all over Canada and the world monopolize their piece of the Olympic legacy. Don't say you weren't warned. Get onboard or get out of the way.

B.C is about to be overrun by hordes of entrepreneurs who are very excited about the opportunity the Olympics brings to Canada. It has been my experience so far that the greatest level of excitement and interest is coming from outside the province. If you take offense to Paul Willcocks' insinuation that British Columbians are lazy prove him wrong. It is ironic that I moved my business here to help British Columbians leverage Olympic momentum, but instead I am finding more interest from businesses across Canada and United States.

Click here to read Paul Willcocks'
'What's Wrong with B.C. - Maybe it's YOU'
article in BCBUSINESS Magazine

Click here to see my brief piece
in BCBusiness Magazine.

*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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Olympic organizations are
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