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
hope companies in Alberta and United States (i.e. Washington, Oregon,
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Maurice Cardinal - TORCH STOKER
Howatson recently interviewed me for a BC
Business Magazine [matrix] feature titled
'Torch Stoker' The interview with Rob was interesting, but the photo
shoot for the article left me a bit, well . . . cold. Photographer Fred
Fraser brought in a huge block of ice and had me do a precarious
and slippery balancing act on it. After an hour or so (avec frozen buns)
we had the photo you see here. In retrospect I'm amazed I was still smiling
- good work Fred! I never made the cover this time around, but maybe next
time I'll do so while perched on an iceberg.
The piece briefly addresses the apathy of local companies regarding the
2010 Olympics and how architects and other companies in the GVRD aren't
gearing up for, or getting as excited about the 2010 Olympics as fast
as, or with the intensity it warrants.
Coincidentally, a more in depth cover article with a similar perspective
was published in a previous BCBusiness Magazine issue. It was written
by Paul Willcocks and entitled, "What's
WRONG with BC? Maybe It's You" The feature article supports
our findings that BC companies in general are a little lackadaisical when
it comes to capitalizing on business opportunities.
Shades of ATHENS! One of the main reasons Athens is having financial
difficulty is because they procrastinated and didn't take seriously the
amount of time needed to ramp up. You snooze, you lose. Don't let anyone
tell you it was because of complex archeological challenges or unexpected
construction events. Greece knew exactly what they were up against before
they put a bid together. Mistakenly though, they thought the world and
the Olympics would bow to them. I ask you, would Bill Gates or Wal-Mart
bow to anyone? Neither does the big box Olympic machine.
Based on almost twenty years of managing big-buck high profile partnership/sponsorship
deals between large corporations, I don't see how an agreement between
the IOC and the hosting region can be regarded as a true 'partnership'.
Maybe theoretically, but practically, no way. The IOC is the driving force,
and once VANOC signed the Olympic agreement they should have considered
it a healthy, but aggressive competition against the IOC every step of
the way to win the most for our region - and if they didn't they should
because that's how the IOC looks at it. Hopefully it ends up relatively
balanced, but without doubt the IOC does everything in their power to
ensure their agenda is represented above all others, even if it is at
the expense of the region hosting the Games. If anyone is foolish enough
to believe otherwise they deserve what they end up with. In the business
world you get what you negotiate, not what you deserve. There is no fair.
Willcocks begins the "What's
Wrong with BC? Maybe it's You" BCBusiness article by stating
that British Columbians don't work as hard as other people in Canada -
specifically, as hard as the "workaholics" in Toronto. He goes
on to say British Columbians justify their lack of effort because they
desire a more bucolic lifestyle and opines that they care more about quality
of life and not "crass success." I'm assuming Willcocks is from
B.C. to be making these pointed statements and even though I agree with
him in many respects, as a former Torontonian and recent Vancouver transplant
I don't want to perpetuate the 'myth' that all easterners are boorish,
so I couch some of my opinions carefully (see the features above that
I've been writing since mid 2003). The reality is that Willcocks is correct
when he writes that if B.C. residents want to know why they are a 'have-not'
province (his words) they have to look in the mirror. Willcocks is a take
no prisoners kind of guy.
One of the first things I noticed when I moved from Toronto is that Vancouverites
do not keep as long hours as people in some other larger cities in Canada,
and in some ways they are proud of this diminished industrious capacity.
Whereas Torontonians wear workaholism like the Order of Canada or a war
medal. At first I found the difference fascinating and resolved to adopt
through osmosis a bit of the laid back west coast cool cachet myself.
I wanted to fit in. Plus I thought, WOW! Live the good life and take it
easy. How did I miss out on this Utopia for so long?
Unfortunately, people here are underpaid, soon to be house-poor and tax
laden, and it is only going to get worse. The average Vancouverite doesn't
have the luxuries and disposable income Torontonians abound in which means
they have no choice but do the great outdoor thing because it is relatively
cheap. Don't get too excited either about the purported booming job market
here because part time jobs don't count. And don't even think of singing
the 'Ottawa ignores us' rhetoric. You get what you negotiate. B.C. needs
smarter politicians. Period. Victoria seems to be doing just fine. Nice
city. Too bad they don't share some of the wealth with Vancouver or the
rest of the province. We need politicians who know how to call a cab when
they drink too much, and how to recognize when their staff are involved
with drugs, drug smuggling and other illegal activities. Don't think for
a moment it isn't embarrassing as a nation to watch the wild west in action
in the year 2004. British Columbians might think they are operating in
a void, but they are not. Canada and the rest of the world are watching,
even more so now that 2010 is looming large on the horizon.
Personally, I've found it somewhat frustrating to deal with the average
B.C. small or midsize business person when I knew the Olympics is a wait-for-no-one
event that will trample everyone and everything in it's path. At first
I thought the passive marketing sense of B.C. SMBs (small and midsize
businesses) was driven by the laid back west coast cachet, but then I
realized . . . SMBs are simply struggling to keep their heads above water.
It's not that SMBs here lack initiative or they aren't proactive, the
reality is that they lack capital to market and promote their businesses
properly. It also didn't take long to figure out that the relaxed B.C.
work ethic and the hyper steroid pumped Olympic organization wouldn't
easily develop a symbiotic relationship. Something would suffer, and we
all know it won't be the big box Olympic machine if they can help it.
The hopped up Olympic big box bull elephant has the capacity to trounce
Vancouverites faster and with more conviction than Expo '86 ever did.
If you were disappointed with what Expo '86 left in its wake wait until
you see what the Olympics can do. Economically speaking, Expo '86 was
two steps forward and three steps back. So you're on the map. Big deal
if you don't have two pennies to rub together after it leaves town. Taxpayers
and SMBs were sold a bill of goods. Everyone else in Canada seems to have
recognized it, too bad it hasn't sunk in here yet.
The Olympics has the capacity to leave B.C. not only dazed and confused,
but with a huge tax burden for good measure. All you have to do is look
to Salt Lake City or Athens for a peek at our possible future. What could
turn out to be be our worst nightmare is happening in Athens in broad
daylight and in real time right before our eyes (BTW, half of which according
to Vansterdam statistics are bloodshot - there's something to be proud
of). Some insiders in Athens are projecting a 17 billion dollar debt.
Greek Taxpayers will pick up the tab because it won't come from the IOC
or anywhere else. That is the reality of what happens when you procrastinate.
Attitudes in B.C have to change at a core level. We have to take a serious
look at drug abuse, drinking and driving, homelessness, caring for the
mentally ill and political corruption. It's not good enough to say it
happens in every other province, because at least until 2010, and whether
you like it or not we will be looked upon as Canadian leaders. It's a
responsibility that comes with the Olympic package. Wild west hick mentality
is no longer cool and won't cut it if we want to headline on the world
stage in 2010. The good thing is that most of Canada and the world doesn't
know how out-of-balance things really are here. One year ago you probably
thought Athens was an incredible city full of industrious people. In some
regards it is, but when you pit it against the big box corporate Olympic
machine chinks in the armor become readily apparent. Once the blindingly
bright Olympic spotlight shone on them it revealed they were mismanaging
the economic side and jeopardizing their opportunity. The IOC was overwhelmed
with damage control even before the Games began and it got worse as time
progressed. It was Salt Lake City all over again, but with a different
crisis set. Do you see a trend here? It's like Athens said, cancer only
happens to other people.
For example, at the eleventh hour Greeks were trying to decide what to
do with the 15,000
stray dogs wandering the streets. At first they were going to kill
them. No kidding. They were going to kill all the dogs. Politicians however
vowed after a global outcry that they would round up the pooches and put
them up in doggy kennels during the big event, but that was too expensive
a proposition. Exactly how many kennels would they need? Will they simply
put aggressive street dogs in large kennels and let them have a go at
each other? Do the Greeks have 15,000 separate kennels, or even 3,800
so they can house four dogs at a time, or maybe 15 kennels for 1,000 street
marauding canines? How many pups are going to be born in a few months
after their incarceration and release?
As the Olympics approached the big question was, will the dogs be captured
. . . or poisoned in the streets? If they are captured will they be fed
and released back to the streets? Will the Greeks really put out more
money for doggy hotels and food considering they are already projecting
a 17 billion dollar debt. Athenians found poisoned dogs, sometimes as
many as eighty at a time thrown in a heap in out of the way places. There's
Olympic Spirit and a legacy to be proud of. In the end the Greeks allegedly
decided to capture the dogs, neuter, inject and put them back on the streets
- not sure what they were injected with though? Hopefully Vancouver won't
struggle with the same quandary regarding the homeless in 2010.
After living in Vancouver for for a while I've also come to realize that
B.C. media and politicians have to quit sniping Canadians outside of British
Columbia. I've worked in every province in Canada and have never heard
anyone anywhere across Canada criticize B.C. the way I hear media and
politicians here criticize people in the rest of Canada. Quebec included.
It is iconoclastic and shameful. It's been my experience that average
Canadians express nothing but praise for B.C. Conversely, I've known for
years to never reveal my Toronto roots when waiting for a table in a Vancouver
restaurant, but until I lived here I didn't really appreciate how deep
the resentment goes. The irony is that Vancouverites are some of the nicest,
most friendly and happy people on the face of the earth. Unfortunately,
they can also be very selective.
Edmontonians, Winnipeggers, Torontonians and Haligonians are Canadians
and should be respected and not fodder for cheap, unfounded and unwarranted
jibes by B.C. Media and politicians. The Olympics will provide a prime
opportunity for B.C. To demonstrate we have the capacity to bring Canadians
together. Sydney, whose 2000 Summer Olympics slogan was "FUN &
GAMES" worked hard to encourage national pride. SMBs (small and midsize
businesses) should look closely at what the Aussies did to galvanize their
country. It takes a village to raise a child and if SMBs want to leverage
Olympic momentum they have to do their part and get involved. Don't wait
for the IOC or VANOC. Considering all that is going on in the world and
the fact that the Olympics at its core represents peace and cooperation,
it is incumbent upon all British Columbians to make their best effort
to leverage Olympic momentum in the best Canadian way possible.
As I cautioned though, don't look for leadership from the IOC or the upper
echelon regarding partnering and cooperation. These guys fight in public
among themselves so you can imagine where you fit in the pecking order.
For example, lawyer Dick Pound, former IOC vice president and current
WADA president (World Anti-Doping Agency), publicly attacked VANOC CEO
John Furlong's qualifications. Granted, Pound's sharp criticism emanated
from his years of experience, but it was uncalled of him to send a blistering
shot across Furlong's bow on the day Furlong's appointment as CEO VANOC
I hate to praise him, but Pound knows how to get his point across. He's
been involved with the Olympics all his life, first as a young Olympic
swimmer and now as a senior executive and lawyer. Even though he lacks
diplomacy, he knows first hand how unforgiving the Olympics is and the
devastating effect it can have on a region. Pound is not only a former
IOC and current WADA representative, but also a proud Canadian and he
wants to see a successful Canadian 2010 Games, which for him and all of
us means that Vancouver/Whistler have to make this work.
Regardless of his motivations, Pound took a cheap shot at Furlong through
the media and made it abundantly clear that if B.C. didn't want to play
at Olympic standards we shouldn't have invited the Olympic bull into the
our china shop. The Montreal lawyer feels that Furlong might not make
a good Matador, but he didn't have the sense to express it properly and
in a way that it would do some good. Instead he alienated a large part
of the west. Pound's outbursts are part of the reason the Olympics lumbers
under constant controversy. The sooner SMBs in British Colombia realize
what they are dealing with the better they will be economically. Ignoring
it or procrastination won't improve the situation or make it go away.
Here's the bottom line, if British Columbians and especially SMBs don't
start very soon to take the Olympics seriously and gear up they will get
stomped into the ground. SMBs are going to wake up one morning even more
house-poor than they already are, living in puny 725 square foot "cozy"
condos watching wealthy aggressive business people from all over Canada
and the world monopolize their piece of the Olympic legacy. Don't say
you weren't warned. Get onboard or get out of the way.
B.C is about to be overrun by hordes of entrepreneurs who are very excited
about the opportunity the Olympics brings to Canada. It has been my experience
so far that the greatest level of excitement and interest is coming from
outside the province. If you take offense to Paul Willcocks' insinuation
that British Columbians are lazy prove him wrong. It is ironic that I
moved my business here to help British Columbians leverage Olympic momentum,
but instead I am finding more interest from businesses across Canada and
here to read Paul Willcocks'
'What's Wrong with B.C. - Maybe it's YOU'
article in BCBUSINESS Magazine
here to see my brief piece
in BCBusiness Magazine.
*Ed. Note: We invested over three years and a six-figure budget researching
Olympic organization relationships with sponsors, contractors, suppliers,
partners, etc. The results surprised us too -- mouseover below
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Learn more about the challenges small
Olympic organizations are
BIG BUSINESS MACHINES that attract corporations like Kodak,
CocaCola, McDonald's, Wal*Mart, etc. Consequently, VANOC (Vancouver
Organizing Committee) will be stretched thin trying to also develop ways
to assist small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum. Surprisingly,
many people don't realize the event can also be lucrative for smaller
businesses including agriculture, manufacturers, entertainment, technology,
retail & obviously tourism, even when they don't have products
or services that appeal to Olympic fans or serve a direct Olympic need.
The information we share here is invaluable in helping
small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum.
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