VANCOUVER — Vancouver comes by its party town reputation honestly, but enough is enough, according to the International Olympic Committee.
The sober-minded IOC has told the city to scale back its plans to party, party, party during the coming 2010 Winter Olympics.
“They’ve made the observation that we may not need as much as is being planned, because there is a lot,” VANOC executive vice-president Dave Cobb said yesterday.
The IOC was concerned that the swath of live sites and celebration areas originally set aside for the 17-day event was more than at any previous Summer or Winter Olympics, Mr. Cobb said.
Spurred by the added impetus of the current economic downturn, he said Olympic organizers have taken IOC concerns to heart. “They have done this many more times than the rest of us, so I think this is a good time for everybody to take a final, last look at what the plans are, and make sure that the scope is appropriate.”
With three significant Olympic sites – the media centre, GM Place (hockey) and BC Place (opening, closing and medal ceremonies) – fairly close together in the city’s dense downtown, large areas have been set aside for the general public to enjoy the atmosphere of the Games without buying a ticket.
“There’s no doubt that the downtown is going to be very active during the Games,” said Dave Rudberg, outgoing general manager of Olympic operations for the city. “This is something that Vancouver has never experienced before, and we are encouraging people to come downtown and take in the celebrations.”
However, a shortage of sponsorship money prompted city council this week to slash Olympic spending on public entertainment to $18-million, a cut of $5-million from its previous budget.
The city is planning two live sites downtown, featuring entertainment, large video screens to show Games events and other Olympic-related activity. But officials are not ruling out consolidating everything to a single site, if money continues to be hard to come by.
In addition to the city’s live sites, the province, VANOC and a myriad of corporate sponsor hospitality tents will take up space downtown. Large sections of major thoroughfares Granville Street and Robson Street are earmarked for pedestrian-only use during the Games.
Streets in the immediate vicinity of BC Place and GM Place, to be renamed Canada Hockey Place for the Olympics, will also be blocked off.
Mr. Cobb was not specific about what celebratory activities might be cut back. “But it’s something we are all looking at right now.”
VANOC, meanwhile, continues to hold its head high above the rising tide of global economic turbulence. The Olympic organizing committee released another rosy quarterly financial report yesterday, outlining large revenue increases from ticket sales, IOC contributions, corporate sponsors and merchandise sales.
“For us, it’s business as usual,” said John McLaughlin, chief financial officer for VANOC. “But there are challenging times ahead … and we remain prudent in our economic management. We try to be careful all the time. … It’s not magic [what we are doing].”
Despite selling out its first ticket offering to the public, VANOC took in just $94-million in revenue from the sales, well short of the $270-million total it hopes to reap. The large gap indicates how many tickets are set aside for members of the Olympic Family, usually national Olympic committees, which has yet to buy its share.
Mr. Cobb said plans are well under way for a second batch of Olympic tickets to be offered to the public some time this summer.