Olympic organizing committee would be Whistler’s big brother

The 78-page report from Gerhard Heiberg’s IOC evaluation commission can be interpreted a number of ways, and has been by representatives from Pyeongchang, Salzburg and Vancouver, as well as university professors, journalists, talk show hosts and the nanny from Australia who’s here on a temporary work visa.

Salzburg officials issued a statement immediately after the report was released last week claiming they were leading the three-way race. Pyeongchang announced that it was encouraged and ready to host the 2010 Games. The Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation leaders said the report reinforced their belief that Canada can, humbly, stage the Olympics as well as anyone, anywhere.

In the highly politicized world of international sport, where there is only one winner, speculation, statements and rumours can be as important as facts and arguments. Any interpretation of the report issued by Heiberg’s commission is valid, since the authors take such great pains not to praise, criticize or rank the three bids. So here’s one more.

What struck me about the report was the power that the organizing committee of the winning bid is going to have. This isn’t any great revelation, but with all the effort on putting together the bid, few of us have thought much about who will be running things if Vancouver and Whistler are awarded the 2010 Olympics on July 2.

Shortly after winning the right to host the Olympics, the bid corporations will be disbanded and a new entity created to organize the Games in the winning city. That entity is referred to in Heiberg’s report as the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, which has one of the ugliest sounding acronyms in the Olympic lexicon: OCOG. For the Salt Lake Olympics last year the organizing committee was referred to as SLOC. Organizers of the Calgary Olympics in 1988 chose the acronym OCO, presumably because they didn’t want to be known as COCO. And the organizing committee for next year’s semi-organized Olympics in Athens is referred to by some as ADHOC.

Whether the new organization responsible for organizing a Vancouver-Whistler Olympics will be known as VOC or VWOC (der Volkswagen Olympic Committee, compact and affordable) or something else, that committee will have an enormous amount of power and be responsible for a budget of $972.5 million US, with a $58 million US budget for contingencies. Heiberg’s report says the budget "is deemed to be fundamentally sound and achievable."

The OCOG won’t be in charge of upgrading Highway 99, but in Whistler it will be responsible for building the Nordic centre in the Callaghan, the athletes village at the entrance to the Callaghan, the bobsleigh and luge track and the temporary media village near the landfill. As stated in Heiberg’s report: "The OCOG will perform overall programme management of venues to be built by public and private sector entities."

The OCOG will also be responsible for all costs associated with the Games. Heiberg’s report states: "During the visit (to Vancouver) it was clarified that public sector funding for capital works will flow through OCOG accounts and its distribution will be managed by OCOG… Design and construction of the venues are to be managed by the OCOG Design and Construction Department. Permanent works will be funded primarily by federal and provincial government grants, which will flow through OCOG to the various projects. As explained to the Commission, the responsibility for re-allocation or increases in funding will rest with the OCOG, which will also be the liaison with government officials regarding adjustments or changes to governmental funding needs."

If the Vancouver bid is successful on July 2, OCOG will play big brother to Whistler for the next seven years. Anything to do with the Callaghan or landfill sites – which should receive considerable scrutiny during the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan process – will have to be cleared with OCOG. That may not be a problem; in fact it may mean decision-making authority will be closer to Whistler than Victoria.

But who is going to head up the tortured acronym? In Calgary they decided they needed a tough, no non-sense sonofabitch to get the 1988 Games done right, and found Frank King. That’s in a tough, no non-sense sonofabitch province where they understand that kind of approach.

Whoever is chosen to head up the Olympic organizing committee, if the Games are awarded to Vancouver, will have the sort of power and authority Whistler council can only dream of.

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