Business Strategies in
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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.

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Article published September 2006

There is a lot of rhetoric and hype by local mainstream news media lately regarding what they describe as the "blight" of billboards in Vancouver.

Let me make this simple. So far, not one mainstream news media company, at least that we have seen, has mentioned that the billboards could, and probably will be used in the ramp up to, and during the 2010 Games to tell the world how Canadian governments treat First Nations.

I'm sure this notion is not lost on Squamish leaders, and I congratulate their reserve (no pun intended) for not letting this surprise slip out.

Billboards in our city will serve two important roles for the Squamish Nation. First, and seemingly unbeknownst to local news media, the strategically placed boards will generate incredible revenue when companies like Pepsi, Ford, and maybe even the TD bank scramble to buy space on the only property in town available for competitors of Coke, GM, and RBC, who just happen to be official Olympic sponsors.

If you read my book you know that Olympic organizations take over all the billboards in an Olympic region in an effort to keep competing companies and protestors from spreading their message to the general populace. Yes, you read it right. Olympic organizations monopolize all the billboard space. Jim Pattison is surely in Olympic heaven, but now he has a bit of competition. The Squamish Nation could make a fortune serving only Olympic competitors like Pepsi. Ironically, their recent entry in the Vancouver billboard market might even drive up the rental price for Pattison billboards. Competition is good for everyone, but not something monopoly-driven Olympic organizations like to deal with.

More importantly, the Squamish Nation, if they deem it necessary, will most assuredly use the billboards to tell the world how Olympic organizations historically exploit Aboriginal people as window dressing to sell the Olympic dream, and that they do not incorporate them into the Games in a meaningful way. Unaccredited international media will have a field day, as they did in Sydney with the infamous "sorry" campaign.

If you want to know how I know, click here . . .

What About You?

Intrawest is still waiting for final approval to sell Canadian mountains to the Americans (09/06), however, approval better come fast before New York buyer, Fortress Investment Group, gets wise and backs out.

In case NY FIG hasn't heard, the real estate "bubble burst" in Whistler. Properties are now selling at tens of thousands below the prices they were purchased for over the last couple of years. It won't be long before the same bubble floats into Vancouver with a hollow "POP."

Interestingly though, lending institutions, like official Olympic sponsor the RBC, are still leveraging the upward trend. Here's how; According to Catherine Pope of Global News TV, about a year and a half ago homeowner Sabina Mawson bought a home in Whistler for $649,000. Just recently she was forced to sell well under asking price for $570,000. If she mortgaged the house through a bank (like RBC), Sabina still owes the bank the difference of almost $80,000 - good for the bank, bad for her. Don't forget too about all the realtor fees, transfer costs, and taxes she had to cover, plus the fact her home did not appreciate and improve her personal net worth. She would have been better off investing in bonds instead of Olympic frenzy. The seller's market peaked and prices are on the way down, and it is happening prematurely.

I cautioned people more than two years ago not to fall into this trap, but some, in their excitement, fueled by news media hype, jumped into the frenzy fed by local news companies who also saw an opportunity to sell millions of dollars of full colour double-spread advertising to real estate marketers like Bob Rennie. CMHC media darling Cameron Muir also extolled the virtues of a market that he claimed was healthy. Apparently even experts are susceptible to the hype and have a marked lack of understanding of how Olympic frenzy affects buyers. If he knew I'm sure he would have warned us, at least we hope so, but he didn't. Instead his bubbly effervescent reports encouraged everyone to get in line and buy, which is exactly opposite of what I've been advising everyone to do. Keep in mind though that Muir works for the CMHC, which just happens to be an Olympic partner. According to real estate experts, there was nothing to worry about. They still preach, "Get in, and get in big because the good times, they are a comin'." Unfortunately, few real estate experts or news media will admit even now that our obscenely spiked Vancouver market was a result of Olympic frenzy. If you purchased in the last few years, I feel for you, but don't lose hope because there still are actions you can take to hedge against your losses. Unlike VANOC, and their $150 million loss, it's not too late. If you've been renting, keep renting for a while longer because a bigger dip is eminent. You'll know when to buy.

Which brings us back to Intrawest. All those who are surprised that Intrawest decided to sell our mountains in the middle of Olympic excitement please raise your hands. Just as I thought. Yeah, me too. I have to admit, this is one Olympic spectacle I did not see coming, so don't feel bad. According to Intrawest, it's not a time to buy. It's a time to sell - and bail. Media and real estate "experts" have it backwards.

In light of the bubble bursting in Whistler, it's hard not to agree that it was a great time for Intrawest to move the mountains when the price was hopped up on Olympic steroids. Sharp guys those mountain moguls, but don't be surprised if they bid to buy it back when the buzz subsides.

Intrawest literally bailed a heartbeat before the bubble popped. If you also bought speculatively in Whistler you might want to follow suit before prices slip even further, which they surely will, especially after the auditor-general's $2.5 billion boondoggle report makes its way through boardrooms. Gone are the days of the Vancouver Sun irresponsibly splaying giant headlines on their front pages hyping "real estate millionaires on paper."

The party is over.

In retrospect, its easy now to see how developers, realtors, banks, and local news media worked to leverage the hype, and how they all came out of it with a big fat bank roll, while homeowners like Sabina lick their wounds.

The reality is that the big players all knew this was going to happen. It's a formula, and they have the recipe.

How do I know they knew? Well, if you've been reading for the last couple of years, and you've read my book, you know why.

Even though they didn't tell you, local news media knew what would happen. How did media know? I told them. Time and again.

How did "I" know it was going to happen? It happened exactly like this in almost all Olympic regions, including, and especially, Salt Lake City.

Pray that what happened in SLC will not happen here, because if it does, Whistler's bubble is just the first whiff of smoke in a dry forest.

Just Say NO - To the IOC

VANOC wants to lease a cruise ship and dock it in Squamish to house international media during the Games. The IOC says no.

VANOC should do what Sydney did in 2000 and tell the IOC to stick it. It's time for laid back Vancouver/Whistler to get a backbone. We are way too nice.

This is our community, and if VANOC (stupidly mind you) wants to pack media like sardines into a cruise ship, it is nobody's business but our own.

Before you criticize me for being reckless, keep in mind that I am rabidly pro-Olympic and that I have almost two decades of high-level experience managing worldwide events and their respective promoters. The IOC is nothing but a glorified promoter, and no better than bushy-haired Don King of Mike Tyson infamy. Never forget that the IOC was recently caught red-handed bribing and cheating in Salt Lake City. Never forget too that Greece is now $12 billion in debt, Salt Lake City $1.2 billion, and Turin is still counting. None of these cities saw tourism improve after the Games, in fact Greece's tourism plunged dramatically. As reported by the New Zealand Herald, "George Tsakiris, who owns three hotels in Athens, states that he and other hoteliers spent over $1.5 billion to renovate and supply rooms with new furniture, televisions, and internet connections hoping that the 2004 Games would increase tourism. The Greek Government spent $10 billion on a new airport, subway and rail system, and venues to prepare for the Games. A survey by consulting firm JBR Hellas found hotel occupancy plunged seven percent in the fourth quarter to fifty percent, the lowest among eleven of Europe's biggest cities. The Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises reported that the number of visi-tors to Greece fell three percent in 2004, a blow to a nation that relies on tourist's spending for about six percent of its gross domestic product."

The Olympics is not a mystical, religious or spiritual entity, and neither is the IOC. VANOC should quit treating them as such and get off their knees and stand up for our community. So should our local media.

Packing international media into a cruise ship is the exact wrong thing to do, and a perfect example of small-town thinking by John Furlong, but I defend VANOC's right, and our right, to do anything in our community that we see fit. Hopefully VANOC will come up with a better solution, but if they don't, then tell the IOC to take it or leave it, the same way Sydney did regarding UPS VS TNT. Sydney won, the IOC lost.

If you don't know what this means, read my book.

It's not nice, but it's the truth . . .

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