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  • Vancouver View -- Olympics Premier Resigns, VANOC Ousted from Offices


    Bye-Bye Gordon Campbell

    British Columbia Olympic Premier Gordon Campbell announced his resignation Wednesday after more than nine years in office.
    Even antler headgear at the closing ceremony wasn’t enough to boost the popularity of Gordon Campbell, post Olympics. Fellow antler fan is ice hockey federation president Rene Fasel. (Getty Images)

    Campbell’s popularity sank to an all-time low 9 percent approval rate in a mid-October survey because of the impacts of a controversial sales tax.

    The July 1 merger of the provincial and federal sales taxes hiked prices for items ranging from haircuts to movie tickets. The tax was no surprise, announced in July 2009, two-and-a-half months after Campbell’s B.C. Liberals won re-election.

    Campbell, who was Vancouver’s Mayor from 1986 to 1993, and then B.C. Premier, has been involved with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics from inception to end.

    He admitted that his unpopularity was overshadowing his party.

    “When public debate becomes focused on one person as opposed to what's in the best interests of the province of B.C., we've lost sight of what's important,” Campbell said at a news conference.

    “When that happens it's time for a change.”

    Campbell’s tenure spanned a period of record economic growth to the global economic collapse and climaxed when the province hosted the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics last February.

    VANOC CEO John Furlong said “there was no bigger friend of the 2010 Games than Premier Campbell.”

    “I was disappointed to hear he was stepping down. Over the years, he became a close, personal friend and I always knew I could count on his leadership, vision and support.”

    “There was a lot of good that happened during his watch, the least of which were the Games,” said Squamish Nation chief and VANOC director Gibby Jacob.

    “He was the biggest supporter I knew and brought home a great event I don’t see any parallels coming in the near future.”

    Tewanee Joseph, who was CEO of the Four Host First Nations, said Campbell’s announcement made him “sad.” He said Campbell was instrumental in the aboriginal art installed at Games’ venues. He said it was a symbol of his strategy to forge new alliances with B.C.’s aboriginals.

    “During the Games the Premier was obviously very supportive not only of Four Host First nations, but having First Nations in this province play a bigger role in where we are going as British Columbia,” Joseph said. “The legacy that he's created now lives in all of us and we need to keep this relationship going.”

    Olympic critic Chris Shaw said Campbell left the province with a legacy of debt, but with other matters unresolved.

    “We still have the worst child poverty in the country, the condition on many First Nations reserves is appalling,” Shaw said.

    “Gordon Campbell deserves the blame for not having done anything about all those things while he was pursuing this glory moment of waving his red mittens in front of television cameras. It's high time the man was gone.”

    New Home for VANOC

    When the police came knocking, it was time for VANOC to evacuate the premises.

    The office tower in Vancouver’s east that once housed 1,500 staff for the Olympics is now the new police headquarters.
    VANOC vacated Campus 2010 in East Vancouver Oct. 31. The property is being converted to the new headquarters for the Vancouver Police Department. (ATR/B.Mackin)

    The lease on the so-called Campus 2010 was to expire May 31, but VANOC negotiated a five-month free extension valued at $50,000 as part of a $2.3 million sale of used furniture and IT equipment to the City of Vancouver that will remain in place for the police department.

    Chief financial officer John McLaughlin and another staffer began sharing space Nov. 1 with the Twentyten Group, a Vancouver marketing firm headed by ex-VANOC marketing vice-president Andrea Shaw.

    McLaughlin said they will be in the 375 Water St. offices as long as it takes to wind-down operations.

    The heritage building in the historic Gastown district was where the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation was headquartered when the IOC chose Vancouver’s bid in 2003.

    Whistler Company Gets Vancouver Payment

    Intrawest, the Fortress Investment Group subsidiary which owns Whistler Blackcomb disclosed in an October prospectus that VANOC paid $32.1 million compensation under a make-whole agreement.

    VANOC spent $135.5 million of taxpayers’ funds to build the Whistler Sliding Centre on Blackcomb and temporary Whistler Creekside alpine venue.

    The Intrawest report said it should have been paid an additional $6.2 million after suffering the worst season since the two mountains merged in 1997-1998.

    Intrawest estimated a non-Olympic season would’ve brought 2.15 million skier visits. Instead, there were only 1.67 million. John Furlong, meanwhile, was appointed a board member.

    Gameday Dispute to Mediation

    VANOC and Gameday Management Group are going to mediation Nov. 8-10 in a bid to avoid a court battle.

    Gameday CEO Tony Vitrano said his company is still owed $10 million on its contract to provide charter bus management services for the 2010 Games.

    Dozens of companies on both sides of the border are waiting for Gameday to pay the final installments for work performed at the Olympics and Paralympics.

    In his only substantial comment on the contract, executive vice-president Terry Wright claimed in August that Gameday misled VANOC in its billing and by introducing subcontractors to the mix that weren’t previously contemplated.

    Vitrano is now transportation operations lead for the London 2012 Olympic organizing committee.

    Poole Remembered

    VANOC founding chairman Jack Poole was remembered with an Oct. 22 ceremony at the outdoor Olympic cauldron in downtown Vancouver.
    Jack Poole's former business partner David Podmore (left), Premier Gordon Campbell and Poole's widow Darlene at an Oct. 22 ceremony at the Jack Poole Plaza Olympic cauldron in Vancouver.(ATR/B.Mackin)

    The cauldron burned again until midnight Oct. 23 in memory of Poole, who died a year earlier after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

    Campbell named the plaza west of the Vancouver Convention Centre after Poole more than a year earlier, but finally dedicated it with a plaque.

    Poole’s 2009 death in Vancouver came hours after Campbell and Furlong were among those who witnessed the Olympic flame lighting in Ancient Olympia, Greece.

    Documents obtained under Freedom of Information show the cauldron burns 7.6 Gigajoules of natural gas per hour. When lit, it uses as much power in one day as two average houses in one year.

    Olympic Village Partner Said Solid

    One of the two brothers who run Millennium Development claims the company will survive continued upheaval at the Vancouver Olympic Village.

    City manager Penny Ballem revealed Sept. 30 that Millennium fell $8 million short of a $200 million loan payment due Aug. 31.

    Shahram Malekyazdi said it’s “business as usual,” despite owing $560 million to the city.

    “We are here for the long term and certainly everyone we worked with over the years has been cooperative,” Malekyazdi said.

    “We don't have any other interests apart from doing good quality buildings and doing good quality work for the city.”

    Since the Olympic Village was rebranded Millennium Water and opened to the public May 15, only 36 new sales were recorded after pre-sales of 223.

    Millennium, marketer Bob Rennie and the city are considering various strategies to flog the remaining 454 units.

    GE Plaza No More

    Robson Square Plaza is no longer GE Plaza.
    Naming rights to Robson Square are open with the expiry of a three-year contract with GE. (Getty Images)

    The B.C. government is seeking new bidders for naming rights to the downtown complex.

    TOP sponsor GE inked a three-year, $1.6 million deal in 2007 for naming rights to the ice rink level at the downtown provincial government complex.

    The rink didn’t open until Nov. 23, 2009 because of construction troubles.

    “We have not been formally approached by the Province regarding sponsorship for this year, which we have indicated we would be willing to discuss,” said GE vice-president of communications Kim Warburton.

    During the Olympics and Paralympics, Robson Square was the provincial live site and drew an estimated 1.5 million visitors.

    With reporting from Bob Mackin in Vancouver.

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