Regional Business News
regarding the 2010 Olympics
in British Columbia, Canada
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especially in Vancouver / Whistler and throughout B.C. We also
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IS ALL THE RAGE - AND MORE
Protesting in Olympics
Regions Eats Business Profits
It seems everyone is protesting something or other in our burgeoning 2010
Olympic region. They protest about highway and frog issues, community
parks and kids, squatters and the homeless, and construction and street
closures. It's all Olympic-related, but if you've noticed, local news
media often don't connect the dots and attribute the growing rash of activism
to 2010. Seems they don't want to be portrayed as party-poopers. Well
on Monday November 20, 2006, the crap hit the fan.
Sheltered Vancouverites were subjected to another protest-gone-bad when
professional protesters took social activism to a new level. What started
as a peaceful protest at the main library turned violent when police jumped
into action and pepper-sprayed the crowd. Our most livable city was portrayed
in news stories around the world as a city investing in the Olympics instead
of in the homeless. It even made the Taipei Times. How's that for exposure
I warned you long ago that professional protesters attach themselves to
local issues, and when these mercenaries from around the world get involved,
things get ugly and violent very quickly. It is one reason I don't advocate
traditional protest. Another reason is that physical street protest doesn't
work in Olympic regions. Even though reactions to protesters look spontaneous,
the IOC, who has extensive experience managing social activism, carefully
and thoroughly coach organizations like VANOC on the finer points of keeping
A wide-eyed and very nervous looking Vancouver councilor, Peter Ladner,
was the only politician dumb enough to get caught in the melee. Instead
of looking like a hero saving the day, he looked naive for underestimating
the seriousness of the aggression and proved that he doesn't have a clue
about what happens to a community in an Olympic region. If you recall,
Ladner thinks that city hall has no responsibility to help SMBs understand
Olympic confusion. It was an ironic twist of fate to see him standing
neck deep in his own effluence. Maybe if he had used his political position
to educate the public when we asked him for help two years ago, he wouldn't
be in this smelly mess today.
Here a few excerpts regarding Ladner
from my book, Leverage
Olympic Momentum . . .
"He [Ladner] also stated unequivocally that local government had no responsibility
to help SMBs leverage Olympic momentum. In an emailed response to me he
wrote, "The bizarre nature of the Vancouver City Council motion was that
the council somehow assumed they could help small businesses re the Olympics.
How?" How indeed Mr. Ladner. How about revealing both sides of the story?
SMBs do not need to be led by the hand, but it would be nice to give them
a heads up regarding what they are up against regarding the increased
cost of doing business in an Olympic region. That would be a good start."
and also . . .
". . . during a public meeting in April of 2006, as councilor Peter Ladner
told an audience that 'reductions' to staffing requests made by the Vancouver
police department were arrived in cooperation with the police department,
Chief Jamie Graham and Deputy Chief Bob Rich sat in the audience literally
shaking their heads. They publicly addressed the decision later in a manner
described as being "unusually critical." (vs29)"
and one more Ladner legacy . . .
"Now for Act II - April 5, 2006, front page, Sun headline, "$193 million
Olympic village bid blows away competition." A small parcel of land (2.6
hectares) in the proposed Olympic Village sold for a truly obscene price.
It didn't just break the record for the most expensive piece of land in
Vancouver, but also for all of Canada, including Toronto. Can you say
"Olympic Frenzy?" If I tried I could not find a better example of a developer
who recognizes what the Olympics represents financially, and how the frenzy
draws professionals into bidding $23 million more than their closest rival.
True to political form, councilor Peter Ladner stated he was "pleased"
with the astronomical price. (Is it any wonder Mayor Sullivan decided
to allocate less space for low-end units? Apparently he saw this coming.)
A $193 million bid means that a 600 square feet condo will have to sell
for about $350,000 in order for the frenzied developer, Millennium Properties,
to break even. (BTW, I've had back decks bigger than 600 square feet.)
Here's what I wrote in my book over a year ago
about Olympic PROTESTING in general;
preface; "As soon as the Bid is won, house prices skyrocket,
and in a short time taxes rise. It doesn't take long for everyone to start
protesting everything after dirty, noisy, and inconvenient construction
begins. Like clockwork, overrun costs are announced and the entire region
flips upside down with road detours, new business regulations, out-of-control
rents and big brother security."
page 19; "In the first couple of years after winning the [Sydney
2000] Bid, when Aboriginals threatened to boycott the Games, politicians
and media painted them as anti-Olympic and un-Australian. SOCOG sent stern
messages and Samaranch "warned" Aboriginals not to hijack the Games. Political
analysts in Australia reported that the IOC needlessly turned a "peaceful
protest and boycott into a criminal act of terrorism." Olympic organizations
banded together and tried to turn the public against Aboriginals, but
when Aboriginals saw what was happening they modified their strategy.
In 1999, mainstream media began to report that Aboriginal leaders decided
not to shun the Games (at one point they also considered running their
own games in parallel in 2000) and instead decided to leverage Olympic
momentum to bring global awareness to the way the Australian government
regarded Aboriginals. The Herald, a local paper, referred to it as the
"Shame Games." The die was cast and Aboriginals were on a roll. They set
up an Aboriginal Embassy and invited international 'unaccredited' media
as well as VIP's and citizens from around the world to see and hear their
story. They planned to "politicize" the Olympics from the inside out.
Even IOC members in other countries expressed interest. (hjl47)"
page 214; "Olympic events are magnets for protest from around the
world. Local laws are enacted many years before an Olympic event to make
it extremely difficult for protestors of any type to congregate and create
a public disturbance. Local police chiefs are assigned the daunting task
of re-training the public. Protest is strenuously suppressed in Olympic
regions. Municipal regulations change to give police new powers of dispersion
and arrest. It is also incredibly difficult to attain a license to congregate
for any type of public gathering. Politicians, police departments, and
sponsor media work together to manage public protest."
page 216; "Even forms of protest that would normally be accepted
are met with harsh rebuttals and collective intimidation. As stress levels
increase, tension rises and it's not uncommon to react in irrational ways."
page 252; "Protesting Olympic events in the traditional way is
a fulltime job for thousands of people. There is a revenue generation
engine attached to it that is way beyond the scope of this book to explore.
It includes private funding, illegal activities, professional protestors
who come in from outside the region, millions of dollars, violence, and
sometimes peaceful protest and positive influence. Mostly though it is
an independent business that is purely anti-Olympic. Olympic activism
will take on environmental issues, safety concerns, community spending,
police and military brutality, etc. They have thousands of people and
millions of dollars backing them, plus a sophisticated communication network.
They are highly technological and grassroots guerilla all rolled into
one, or two, or three or more units. They operate in the open and in secrecy
and could pop up anywhere and at any time. They represent local as well
as national and global causes. Sometimes they band together and sometimes
they remain independent. For the most part they have not been too successful
in forcing change on the Olympic field."
page 254; "Olympic protesting is often an illegal, violent event.
Protestors wear masks, police officers remove badges and everyone involved
would prefer to remain anonymous. For some it's simply because they have
regular jobs that could be negatively impacted, for others it allows them
to commit illegal acts and reduce their risk of getting caught. Anti-Olympic
protesting is an especially dangerous form of protest because in essence
you are acting out against the state. Many countries don't take kindly
to what they erroneously perceive as treason and they react accordingly.
You can guarantee that if you are caught in an anti-Olympic protest someone
is going to get hurt. Olympic organizations do a good job of hyping politicians
and the public into thinking peaceful protest against the Olympics is
an act of treason. In some respects Olympic organizations are 'almost'
justified because the Games are so easily disrupted that even the smallest
controversy can put them on the road to ruin. Any type of scandal can
have a devastating effect when you operate on the border of chaos. It
only takes a small push to put you over the edge. Consequently Olympic
organizations have a zero tolerance attitude when it comes to people criticizing
their activities. They hit back hard and swiftly. Sometimes it works,
and other times it blows up in their faces."
"This book isn't about traditional protesting because I don't believe
it is effective, so I don't advocate it. However, I do think the need
to protest is occasionally justified. People in Olympic regions take a
back seat to Olympic organizations, and the more research we do, the more
I appreciate why. SMBs in Olympic regions are convinced that if they just
play along they will come out ahead, or at the very least they will be
all right. In the era before the internet it was easy to be deceived,
but today there is no reason for such naiveté. Olympic organizations constantly
battle community groups around the world. If it isn't housing injustices,
it's work safety or environmental issues or artificially inflated property
values and taxes. The Winter Olympic Games are smaller than the Summer
Games, and because of this, the tendency to attract global protest is
diminished, but there will still be considerable local protest, so be
prepared to pay for and put up with it whether you are involved or not."
page 255; "Politicians have a lot to gain by bringing the Olympic
spectacle to a region. As long as they don't get caught red handed in
a bribery scandal or kickback scheme they look like heroes, at least until
it leaves town and before taxes rise to cover overrun costs. The public
falls for it every time when politicians tell us we should accept the
Olympics unconditionally and it will be nothing-but-good for the community.
If it was so good for the community why do so many people protest it?
Can so many individuals be so wrong time after time? The best way to force
Olympic organizations to pay attention and respect you is to impact their
economic flow. Hit them where it hurts - in the pocketbook. Traditional
street protests do little good because Olympic organizations have decades
of practice dealing with it. As you have seen throughout this book Olympic
organizations know how to manage media and influence the public, so it's
foolish to allow them to force you to fight the battle on their terms
and in their territory. In 1997, the APEC pepper spray incident in Vancouver
by the RCMP stunned the rest of Canada, and there is no reason to believe
wild west violence like this will not be played out again on an Olympic
front. Are you prepared for such aggression? Why subject yourself to a
losing battle on the street when it is so easy to attach your cause to
a global network of unaccredited journalists?"
"Olympic-time legislation makes peaceful street-protest almost impossible.
Always remember the unspoken Olympic credo, 'you are either with us or
against us'. If media wants access to Olympic events and information they
cannot play both sides of the street. In the past media have been threatened
with losing accreditation if they photograph police action against protestors.
When police remove identification badges and charge the crowd it negatively
impacts Olympic ticket sales and television viewership. Protesting usually
becomes very intense in the last six months leading up to the Games. It
is during this period international media start relocating into the region
in large numbers. Up until that point they may have visited the region
once or twice, but during the last six months they set up a permanent
base until the Games are over. More media equals increased protesting.
What better time then when the whole world is watching?"
page 256; "In Olympic regions they don't fool around with a few
hundred officers waving batons and pepper spraying from behind shields.
Olympic protesters are managed with helicopters, horses, dogs, boats and
all those other goodies we described earlier like Tazers, full body armor,
water cannons, and small armored vehicles to carry troops and bulldoze
torched cars out of the way. Protesters are subject to zero tolerance.
Olympic organizers don't push protesters back and wait for them to fizzle
out. They extinguish them with extreme prejudice and have been known to
send 1,500 military, one hundred and fifty SWAT members, and a full complement
of artillery against one hundred protestors. Remember, unaccredited media
are watching, and the faster Olympic organizations bring things under
control the better. They pounce upon the first whiff of smoke. One of
the reasons is to deter professional protesters from entering the fray.
What starts out as a local protest to raise visibility about a road closing
has the potential to turn into a full-blown anti-Olympic event complete
with balaclavas and molotov cocktails."
"Local protestors are psychologically managed to feel intimidated and
made to feel guilty. When construction of venues is slowed because of
protesting it affects athletes anxious to get into the facilities to train
on their home turf. Olympic organizations look to checkbook media to make
citizens feel personally responsible for holding up construction. Local
media will run articles chastising protestors for undermining local athletes.
It works too. Who in their right mind would want to feel guilty for impeding
a future Olympian? Little Johnny or Mary worked hard since six or seven
to fulfill their parent's life long dream. It's a very valid reason not
to have your company associated with any type of protest, especially if
it impacts construction schedules. Media will roast you. No one screws
with hometown advantage. All it takes is one newspaper to get the ball
rolling and pretty soon every media company gets onboard against protestors.
In general they tend to downplay the importance of local resident concerns.
Olympic organizations put incredible pressure on media to make local protesters
look unpatriotic, anti-Olympic, anti-sport, and, in general, like whiners.
Often, nothing could be further from the truth, but Olympic organizations
know the public will lose track of who the good and the bad guys are if
they group people with legitimate concerns in with 'professional protesters'
who are guilty of some or all of the anti-Olympic traits. The line is
fine between anti-Olympic and wanting to be treated fairly. Unfortunately,
nothing will change in this regard unless a region cultivates a grassroots
movement to counter the strategy before it germinates. However, doing
so is highly improbable because everyone initially trusts Olympic organizations
and they never push back until they are backed into a corner. By that
time it is too late."
"For the most part Olympic organizations could care less what you do as
long as you don't impact them economically. For them, defending against
protesters is simply a cost of doing business. They pay the fine and continue
to speed. Local protesters are like a gnat on an elephant. They are usually
so inconsequential Olympic organizations barely even generate enough energy
to swat them away"
page 257; "Protests usually have little impact. If they did people
around the world wouldn't keep inviting the Olympics into their backyards
under the same conditions. Most people don't understand the financial
dynamic. Instead of protesting, leverage Olympic momentum by attaching
yourself to their money stream. Most citizens have no idea how much protest
Olympic organizations attract. They are in for a rude awakening the closer
the Games approach. Everyone starts protesting everything and after a
while it starts to become an incredible inconvenience for everyone living
in the region. The first glimmers of protest started early in Vancouver.
First with the Eagleridge/Sea to Sky construction in 2004, and then over
a children's community baseball stadium near Nat Baily Park in 2005. The
worst is yet to come."
"Local protest is very rarely peaceful. Most of the time it starts out
that way, but the police and military in Olympic regions are extremely
sensitive and often have zero tolerance to any type of protest. When they
react to a protest they often instigate violent reactions. Most people
around the world still don't have a clue that violent protests erupted
in Athens during the 2004 Games only blocks from Olympic traffic and hotels
hosting politicians and Games officials. Thousands of people clashed violently
with police and military, but the media downplayed it. Reporting about
it after the fact when tempers abate doesn't happen either because there
is no financial incentive for media to do so. Go ahead, search online
for 'riots protests Colin Powell Athens 2004' and see what you find. I'm
betting you had no clue this was happening during the 2004 Summer Games,
or if you did you dismissed it as a non-event. When it hits your city
you'll soon look at it with a different perspective. If you're forced
to deal with it don't you think you should be compensated in some way?
You will after your spouse tells you about being forced to take a detour
and then accidentally running into a thousand protestors dressed in full
body armor wearing masks and balaclavas, tossing molotov cocktails and
swinging baseball bats. Own the Podium will have a new meaning."
page 264; "Local residents and businesses protest constantly. They
erroneously believe that if they didn't, Olympic organizations would roll
right over top of them. I have news for you, protest all you want, they're
still going to do what they want. As your region gets closer to the Games
protests to protect the community will increase. Don't be surprised if
the Cambie train line, the Eagleridge Bluffs issue, or the kid's baseball
diamond near Nat Baily Stadium controversies escalate into larger battles
as time goes on. Unfortunately, protesting costs money and the more money
that local businesses and residents spend on protesting the less they
have to spend on products and services. It also costs taxpayers plenty
to pay for police and security forces that monitor protests. It's a Catch
22. If you don't protest you will lose revenue, and if you do protest
it will cost you money. Can't we all just get along? Apparently not. If
we could there wouldn't be such a high incidence of local protest. By
the way, at the printing of this book the protesting that businesses have
done so far regarding construction on Cambie has had absolutely zero effect
on slowing it down. It even looks so far like the Eagleridge Bluffs highway
is going through as originally planned.
Every Olympic region goes through it. SMBs will find themselves at city
hall meetings in increasing frequency as the Games approach. It starts
slowly a few years out and then peaks the year before the big event. The
more mismanaged the local Olympic organizing committee, the higher the
incidence of protesting. Even in well-managed regions there will be many
issues that will be argued in court or on the streets. Olympic organizations
will push as hard as possible with little regard for how they impact the
community. They become focused on their mandate and have a hard time seeing
the community's perspective. It's not uncommon for Olympic organizations
to low-ball plans to get local residents online and then over the course
of time increase the cost of building Olympic related facilities. There
are literally hundreds of examples, but one that is exceptional is the
Ryde Aquatic Leisure Center in Sydney. The swimming pool complex started
out with an estimate of $7 million and by the time it was finished costs
had escalated to $24 million in less than two years. Not only did the
cost more than triple, residents did not have access to pool facilities
for the entire two years while the old facility was being rebuilt. The
Richmond Oval will present very similar cost controversies. Building on
quicksand beside the river will drive costs through the roof, and if the
complex can only be used as a speed skating oval for ten years before
the ice pad starts to shift, where is the legacy? Last minute changes
can be devastating for a community. It is examples like this that draw
out thousands of local protestors. Unfortunately, most of the time it
is too late. Protesting is an after-the-fact response that rarely works.
page 265; "Vancouver/Whistler already announced $110 million in
overrun costs in early 2006. The challenge for SMBs and residents is to
carefully screen what Olympic organizations claim as being either an Olympic
or a community expense. They often convince taxpayers to pick up the tab
directly for something that is solely an Olympic cost. Sponsor shareholders
have tremendous influence in this regard, not directly, but indirectly
through the company's board of directors. There is great incentive to
pass the bill on to the community. Even though taxes pay for it the accolades
go to the sponsor when the world sees what an incredible job has been
done with 'sponsor' money. No one around the world has a clue that local
taxpayers subsidized it. Sometimes even taxpayers don't know. "Double-dipping"
is a common strategy used to find more funds. A frequent ploy is to agree
to use an old structure for an Olympic venue. Olympic organizations agree
to rebuild and fix it up, but what they don't say is that they expect
the municipality to pick up costs for things the community will benefit
from in the future. In other words Olympic organizations will upgrade
the building in only areas they want to use for sport competition, or
as a backdrop for television, or that provide an operational value like
freight elevators, parking, etc, but when it comes to spiffing the place
up in public washrooms or concession areas, that has to be paid for by
taxpayers. Every time this happens out come the protest signs. Each time
taxpayers protest, renovations and construction slow down and sometimes
stop. Each time it does the whole schedule gets pushed back. When schedules
get pushed back costs increase because third party suppliers get held
up. When they get held up their costs increase. It sets off a chain of
events that trickles all the way down the line. Suppliers, possibly you,
who are at the end of the line, end up having any small profit they thought
they might generate disappear. Once SMBs sign Olympic contracts they are
locked in. Contracts are almost exclusively based on a fixed delivery
price with no contingencies to renegotiate. Don't even think of bailing
either because if you do, Olympic organizations can easily turn it around
to make the public think you unfairly backed out and left them high and
dry. And remember, sponsors often supply 'value in kind' products and
services in house, but they often only provide the products and services
they know they can deliver at a reasonable cost. When they sub-contract
to an outside company, possibly yours, watch for signs that they are only
looking for a third party to provide a product or service that will be
extremely hard if not impossible to deliver profitably. If you doubt this
happens try to negotiate a contract with an escalation clause to cover
circumstances beyond your control. If you're successful, you'll be one
of the few to do so. I'd like to hear from you if it happens, but unfortunately
you'll be prevented from telling us about it due to the stringent confidentiality
agreement you were forced to sign when you bid for the project. (hjl95;tw48)"
page 287; "The IOC and local Olympic committees are subjected to
literally thousands of protest groups. They are experts at deflecting
and diffusing issues and have a large battery of public relations teams
and lawyers to intimidate and keep community groups at bay."
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