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Travel News

Your land is my land: Vancouver hosts 2010 Olympics

Written by editor

Some of the original sponsors for the 2010 Olympics are at or near bankruptcy.

Some of the original sponsors for the 2010 Olympics are at or near bankruptcy. Currently there are signed contracts for 98 percent of the $760 million for the Olympics but only 40 percent is in cash and received (as of December 15, 2008). Of the 60 Olympic partners, General Motors with a $70 million commitment in cash and cars is in serious financial difficulties using US government bailouts for survival. Nortel, providing the technology for the Games, is reviewing bankruptcy protection options.

For the three months ending October 31, 2008, the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) posted a $65 million deficit because of a massive loss on foreign exchange and an increase in technology spending. The budget for the Games venues is currently at $580 million.

Recently a secret additional $100 million loan agreement was made available to the Olympic Village developer Millennium and its financial backer, Fortress Investment Corp. It appears to be a necessity rather than a gift since Fortress Investment Group lost US$57 million in the third quarter of 2008. This NY based hedge-fund and private equity manager holds a CAD$760 million investment (through one of the funds it manages) in the athletes’ village in the form of a construction loan to the village’s building, Millennium Development Corp.

Transportation in and around Vancouver – especially the downtown core, is going to be a challenge with temporary changes in the city’s road network and road closures required during the construction phase as well as during the Olympics.

The city does plan to provide additional pedestrian and cycling routes, transit improvements, as well as limits on construction–related closures, along with the extension of rush hour parking, and priority lanes in an attempt to provide reliable travel times for the athletes, officials and media.

Henry K. S. Lee, the chairman and chief elected officer for the Vancouver Board of Trade, highlighted crime and public disorder for the 2010 Olympics. He said in August 28, 2008: “The damage caused by those who commit crimes and are disorderly in public is certain to be noted by the international media and will be one of the lasting legacies reflecting on Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada’s reputation.”

Threat assessment for 2010 includes a “lone wolf” attacker (similar to the pipe bomb incident at the Atlanta Olympics 1996) as well as activities organized by the extreme elements of the First Nations groups in alliance with anti-poverty groups.

Billions for Protection
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the lead agency for the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Units’ Threat Assessments, are finding that the $175 million security budget is far less than prior Olympic security costs and considerably less then is likely to be required for Vancouver. The Athens 2004 organizations and Greek authorities spent US$1.5 billion, which works out to be US$142,857 per athlete or US$283 per ticket sold. The Beijing 2008 organizers and the Chinese government spent US$300 million or 20 percent of the Athens budget. Andrew Cohen of speculates that the VANOC could actually spend up to US$1billion on security.

The Plan: On the Ground
The Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (V2010-ISU), the agency tasked with securing the 2010 Winter Olympics, works with VANOC on security planning and intends to integrate technology, sniffer dogs, and security personnel to protect the athletes and their families, as well as visitors and the local community. With incident prevention high on their list, security unit personnel have consulted on the construction plans for the “Sea-to-Sky Highway” with the idea to build security into operations rather than retrofit post-construction.

The Olympic Games will receive increased levels of security on and round the sites and secured and sanitized transportation will be available for the athletes, team officials and designated Olympic family members. Official transportation will be assigned to the VIPs to/from airports, to/from Athlete/Olympic Villages, for practice and competition venues, Medal Recognition Ceremonies, and the opening and closing ceremonies. Drivers are being processed through a security background check and will receive security orientation and training.

Almost 13,000 police, military and security personnel are likely to be occupied with the 2010 Olympics, including emergency response teams, riot police, helicopters and armored vehicles. Security zones are being established to control entry near Olympic venues.

Above the Ground
Protecting airspace above the Olympic Games has been a top priority. Although the aviation industry and related interests (i.e., corporate, medical, UPS) have been assured that airspace closures during the Games are not planned, various “terms and conditions” are being developed through consultations. There is a desire to increase the safety levels over the Olympic sites and airspace modification are being designed to “accommodate ongoing commercial and private available operations…” according to Bud Mercer, the assistant commissioner for V2010-ISU. Modifications may include specific air routing for light aircraft and helicopters, pre-screening of aircrews, passengers and aircraft in addition to restricted access over designated sites.

Security Accommodations
Where are all the security personnel going to stay before and during the event? A request for proposals (RFP) for cruise ships to accommodate 300-500 people to be located at the Squamish Terminal/Vancouver is currently posted online. VANOC criteria require 2-3 star accommodations, access to a bar, an Internet café and telephones, plus laundry and banking facilities.

The first RFP was awarded to Cruise Connections Charter Management, a North Carolina-based company which, in August 2008, had a signed $55-million contract with the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) to provide three ships for use as accommodation vessels during the Olympic Games at a rate of $298 per day, per bed and included meals, non-alcoholic beverages and waste removal. This contract is no longer in force and a new RFP has been issued.

Real Estate Developers
Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in North America (and the priciest place to live in Canada), with average home prices hovering around US $500,000. Residential prices have been growing at 10 percent or greater for the past few years, according to Darnell Little of New Olympic-focused operations will take up almost 1 million sq. ft of office space with a forecast estimate beyond the Games to reach to 4 million sq. ft. It is estimated that the Games could potentially attract new international companies to Vancouver, and encourage local companies to grow.

The 2010 Games are making infrastructure development a priority and include improvements to mass transit rail, bridges and local road and highways with plans for airport expansion and more convention space. There are new hotels underway – and hotel occupancy will increase, as well as new business sectors and urban development.

From Vancouver’s natural beauty and its soul nourishing mix of mountains, forest, parks and beaches plus a healthy movie industry (third largest motion picture production center in North America), it is also a high-tech corridor and a developer of software and video games. At the end of the day, however, there is limited space to grow.

The downside to all this development is the loss of affordable housing with developers buying up properties to convert to high-end hotels and residential apartments. In addition, construction projects not connected to 2010 are finding it hard to secure architects and engineers committed to other projects.

At the End of the Day – It’s All About the Games
Olympics Accommodations: Whistler and Vancouver
The best place to stay for Olympics attendance is at Whistler and the preferred hotel is the Four Seasons Resort. However, securing a reservation may be a challenge. The hotel requires a written request for accommodations, which places the “potential guest” on a waiting list. According to The Four Seasons’ director of public relations, Samantha Geer, “The Four Seasons Resort Whistler is a strata owned organization,” and does not currently “have a full confirmation from… owners”. Geer stated that they are “….working with VANOC” and as the space is released by the owners, and room blocks become available, the Four Seasons, “… will start contacting individuals on the wait list…”

Even if you cannot stay at the Four Seasons, you MUST plan to have dinner at the hotels’ Fifty Two 80 Bistro, where executive chef Scott Thomas Dolbee sets the bar for gourmet dining in the area. His unique menu combines local culture and regionally inspired selections from the Pacific Ocean and fresh water seafood and the BC wine list is daunting.

With a limited number of hotel rooms in the Whistler area, there is a large demand creating for accommodations in the city of Vancouver where the best selections are the Fairmont and the Four Seasons. Combine old world charm with contemporary amenities at locations that are central to shopping, dining and local entertainment and these properties share the spotlight for first place. Again, the Four Seasons must be visited – if not for an entire visit, at least for a gourmet dining experience at the Yew.

Beyond the Games
For pre- and post-Olympics activities featured among the “must do” are:
1. Chilliwack Circle Farm Tour with visits to the goat cheese processing plant, an organic kosher grains and fresh stone ground flour section, and natural unpasteurized honey.

2. Xa:ytem Center to learn about Sto:lo spirituality, archaeology and history. Spend the morning learning Salish weaving, cedar bark processing, and the healthy uses of plant materials. From prehistoric tools, and traditional woodworking with an adze, artifacts become work-a-day tools (

3. Chilliwack Artisan tours include the Schellenberg Pottery, Evelyn Zuberbier watercolors, and pen/ink drawings ([email protected])

For additional information on the 2010 Olympics First Nations contact:, [email protected] or

(part two of two)

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