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  • Rogge notes the low profile of the 2010 Games


    There was no six-month countdown party, public events are few and far between, and the streets of Vancouver remain virtually bare of Olympic paraphernalia.

    Now, with just 178 days to go before the glittering opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Games, the top man at the International Olympic Committee has criticized local organizers for not doing more to promote the event.

    In an interview with the respected online publication Around the Rings, Switzerland-based IOC president Jacques Rogge did not dispute a suggestion that the 2010 Games have a very low profile.

    "I agree ... that a bit more promotion would be useful," Mr. Rogge said. He added that the issue will definitely be on the agenda when the IOC committee scrutinizing preparations for the 2010 Games comes to Vancouver for a look next week.

    His remarks came to light just as officials reported record registration for the 1,300 spots at the provincially funded International Media Centre in downtown Vancouver for journalists not accredited to cover the Olympics. Another 10,000 journalists from around the world have already signed up for the official Main Press Centre on the city's waterfront.

    Indeed, VANOC president John Furlong seemed perplexed by Mr. Rogge's criticism.
    "It may have been an awkward question. ... I really don't believe the question [to Mr. Rogge] was rooted in fact," Mr. Furlong said yesterday. "We have an extraordinary amount going on globally."

    VANOC officials pointed out that the 2010 Olympic website received more than two million hits from outside Canada last year, VANOC has hosted more than 50 visits from international media in the past three months, and Olympic mascots have already made appearances in China, South Korea, Japan and Australia as part of heavy-duty tourism promotions.

    "I don't believe we are in any different position from any other Games at the same time [as far as promotion is concerned]," Mr. Furlong said.

    In fact, the perception that the 2010 Olympics have a low profile may be fuelled by VANOC's own success, he surmised. "The project has not been plagued by the kind of things that put you on the front page ... venues not being finished on time, budget over-runs, that sort of thing."

    Mr. Furlong did not deny, however, that budget struggles, rooted in the current recession, are making it difficult for organizers to prepare for the Games. Frills and extras are out the window.

    "But I'm not sure anything that's happened so far will have changed the commitments we have made internationally," he said. "Look at the pressure for media. We are not going to be able to cope with the numbers [at the unaccredited centre], so that's pretty extraordinary."

    The IOC, itself, is causing financial problems for VANOC since it has not yet delivered on $30-million in sponsorship commitments because of a dearth of corporate global sponsors.

    As for the lack of a six-months-to-go celebration, Mr. Furlong said those kind of events are not all that necessary. "They are more to pat your own team on the back, celebrate with the volunteers and remind the local population, which is already well aware of the Olympics."

    He said the beginning of the torch relay is traditionally when national and international attention begins to focus seriously on the coming Olympics. The 2010 torch is scheduled to be lit Oct. 22 in Greece.

    Vancouver streets, meanwhile, will start to take on an Olympic look around the same time, according to Councillor Geoff Meggs. "Some buildings will be wrapped with Olympic themes, the Olympic Village will be handed over, and we'll begin to see banners," Mr. Meggs said, contending that such measures enhance the Olympic experience for visitors. "When you invite everyone here, you've got to make sure they have a good time."