VANOC CEO John Furlong presented his Top Ten list of Olympic requests in his Vancouver Board of Trade address Thursday, demonstrating – yet again – how little he understands marketing or the people of Metro Vancouver.

In a city still coming to grips with news that financing for the Olympic Games Athlete Village project is in jeopardy thanks to the global economic collapse – this local crisis and proposed solutions continuing to be the matter of furious debate among Vancouver residents – Furlong’s comments leave British Columbia residents shaking their heads in amazement. Furlong pulled his fingers from his ears and stopped repeating lalalalalalalalalalalalala just long enough to challenge business leaders in town to consider mandated vacation for employees during the Games and asked residents to work from home, alter their hours or apparently just forget they have jobs entirely and stay off the streets to make room for the Olympic traffic.

Many who know him say Furlong is an incurable dreamer and these Games are the culmination of a life-long desire. Maybe so, but how could he possibly expect a business owner to close the doors – no revenue coming in – for two weeks during the Games? How could he expect a business owner to mandate its employees to take their two weeks in that glorious meteorological time of mid-February and not have it cause a mass exodus or huge drop in company morale? And what about those people in industries that will see their employees running around like one-armed paper-hangers the entire time? Social workers, nurses, doctors, medical services people, cops, firemen, hospitality staff – the Games will tax these people and the people they serve in untold ways without a dime from Olympic coffers when the last medal is presented. Most accept that whatever boost to our economy the Games bring will go right back into paying the big tax bill we all know is coming.

The most insulting thing about Furlong’s patriarchal address – and there are many – is that nothing about his call for leadership and Olympic spirit showed any of either, this was purely dad sitting the kids down before the important business guests come for dinner to warn them to be on their best behaviour because his career depends on it. To the Metro Vancouver people paying for these Games in a multitude of financial, social and logistical ways, Furlong’s exhortations to appoint an office Games Champion, embrace the spirit and support the athletes left many people dumbfounded, asking if he was for real.

He is right on one point: we should support the athletes, because, like us, they are pawns of the IOC, President Jacques Rogge and his Olympic-sized money vacuum and, like us, they will see very little of the revenue their effort and sacrifice produce. The IOC is an organization that makes the Vatican Bank look clean of corruption and yet, we’re all asked – no, told – to make way so their machine can roll into town for two weeks, destroy everything in its path and leave us all wondering what the hell just hit us.

Here are Furlong’s Top Ten Requests in italics with my reality check suggestions beside. Let the Games begin.

1. Leadership… Leadership, we haven’t seen it, yet.
2. Heroes… Hundreds of thousands of Metro Vancouver residents dealing with this mess
3. More heroes… Anyone who doesn’t succumb to a road rage moment during the Games
4. The work day… The 18-hour work day, which is what many essential and high-demand services people will be working
5. Time off… Did I say 18-hour work days?
6. Fewer cars… Fewer cars, finally something we can agree on
7. Work from home… Tell that to the ER doc or the homeless binner
8. Embrace the spirit… Employ the count-to-ten-take-deep-breaths approach
9. Support the athletes… Support the athletes, because they’re being screwed just like you and I
10. Spread the joy… Channel your inner Eckhart Tolle


What beats in Kevin Falcon’s chest? Something undoubtedly small, hard and intent on mass destruction. The automaton often referred to as the Provincial Minister of Transportation is seemingly incapable of any empathy or human compassion as evidenced by his response to last week’s Porteau Cove rock slide. In an interview, he quickly expressed thanks for the lack of death or serious injury as a hurried aside, perhaps because a PR aide whispered in his ear that might be a good thing to mention, before launching into an obscure and confusing explanation of how an event like this would not impact the 2010 Olympic Games and how a plan for just such an eventuality was already being worked on by his people and VANOC. Pressed on just that the plan might look like, Falcon could not elaborate, citing not security or early days, but instead offering this reassurance: the athletes competing in the affected events would be living and training in the Whistler area – in the event of another Sea to Sky blockage, the games would go on without a hitch. Because somehow, he knows exactly how a crippling event during the Games would look.

What he failed to say was – assuming a similar slide occurred and not some other environmental event or act of terrorism – spectators wouldn’t make it, kids aspiring to future Olympic greatness would miss the chance to see their heroes win medals, parents who had dedicated years of time and money to finance athletes’ medal hopes might be caught in the jam and fail to witness their kids’ greatest moment – and, most notably, he failed to say that the truly important people would be there: the broadcasters. Their precious broadcast revenue would be intact, paid by advertisers because the show would go on, ensuring speedy transfer to VANOC and, ultimately, IOC coffers. Is this why you aren’t hearing more about 2010 security plans?

No doubt, Falcon has taken his cue from VANOC President John Furlong, who last October mentioned VANOC would consider asking the Metro Vancouver working public “to leave their cars at home, work different hours or consider staying with friends or family downtown during the 2010 Winter Olympics”. In concert with Falcon’s comments, it’s not difficult to understand whose Olympics these are, and they don’t belong to the athletes, the kids or the long-suffering parents, it’s the real estate developers, the IOC and the corporate sponsors who will scoop up all the events tickets to place in the swag bags of the rich and influential. Buy their Coke, eat at McDonald’s and all is right in their world.

Falcon’s rush to world-saving action on the rock slide could not contrast more heavily with his reaction to the Canada Day closure of the Ironworkers’s Memorial Bridge for a police incident involving a suicidal woman barely saved from a death plunge by quick-acting Vancouver Police negotiators. If he had any idea how close to fulfilling her wish she came, he might think again about complaining his potato salad went warm in the six hour wait – no, scratch that, of course he wouldn’t. The man has little compassion for anything but his own time and money and that of his associates. His childish, self-serving diatribes only further serve to show him as the petulant brat he is and one can only wonder what his Surrey-Cloverdale constituents think of him – surely they can’t imagine he would provide them any assistance if they walked into his office seeking help with a provincial disabilities claim or human rights complaint, he is clearly above that, serving the blue bloods, the movers and the shakers who form the BC that smugly calls itself The Best Place on Earth, not the BC of everyday men and women struggling to make a life for themselves and their families.