The secrets of Vanoc, which finally dissolved in 2014, are under lock and key in Vanier Park’s city archives, across English Bay from the sculpted inukshuk that inspired its logo.
The 2003-born Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games spent almost $2 billion to plan and stage the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, which opened five years ago on February 12. City of Vancouver Archives staff are halfway through making Vanoc’s corporate records publicly available, according to city manager Penny Ballem. Correspondence, reports, blueprints, and audio and video recordings occupy 35 metres of physical space and 25 terabytes of digital space.
She was a city-council-appointed Vanoc director and signatory to the archival-transfer agreement.
Nuggets abound for those who want to prospect, like a July 13, 2004, report recommendation that the Games’ broadcast and press centres be not in Richmond but in the Vancouver Convention Centre. NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol “specifically requested” downtown.
That move happened; another didn’t.
Developer David Podmore’s April 26, 2004, letter to his Concert Properties boss and Vanoc chair, Jack Poole, mentioned studying the feasibility of hosting curling in B.C. Place Stadium.
And Golder Associates concluded less than a month before the Games that tents and trailers near B.C. Place and Rogers Arena wouldn’t disturb contaminated soils under Concord Pacific land.
B.C. Hydro’s November 29, 2004, presentation anticipated public dissatisfaction over its Games sponsorship. Later, Hydro CEO Bob Elton apologized—on July 24, 2008—to Vanoc CEO John Furlong for a major downtown power outage that knocked Vanoc’s website off-line.
An Ipsos-Reid May 17, 2005, poll said Vanoc was “not as strong in respect to being sensitive to environmental issues or being transparent or trusted.” Some in Horseshoe Bay agreed. A file about their failed campaign to save Eagleridge Bluffs from Sea-to-Sky Highway construction includes a 2005 in-the-buff fundraising calendar. The topless and arbutus-hugging May model, “Pam G.”, is Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, voted West Vancouver mayor in November 2005.
Vanoc obsessively guarded its brand. Nonunion construction lobbyist Phil Hochstein got a February 25, 2004, letter asking him to drop “2010” from his 2010 Construction Leaders Taskforce.
And Petro Canada–sponsored Vanoc went public to halt Esso and Hockey Canada’s ticket-giveaway contest for the Turin 2006 Winter Games. Vanoc vice president of communications Renee Smith-Valade mused in an October 27, 2005, email: “They must be feeling the pressure—they are losing the media war on Day 1.” The file of related cease-and-desist letters includes a heated October 17, 2005, email exchange between Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson and Furlong.
Nicholson: “So if we remove the tickets does this bring this to closure??”
Furlong: “So damage has already been done. The tickets are but one aspect. The program must be stopped.”
A January 2005 RCMP report warned Vanoc that financial crime was the “most probable and immediate” risk to the Games. “With millions of dollars available, Vanoc should expect to be tested by criminal enterprise both externally and internally.”
Did the latter happen? RCMP Supt. Bob Harriman of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit wrote to Furlong on January 30, 2006, about “Vanoc internal concerns”.
“You alluded generally to a corruption issue that had been addressed internally. As Vanoc is not the only corporation we are supporting, we would appreciate further information on this matter in order to ensure this information is recorded by the V2010 ISU Intelligence unit.” (Furlong did not respond to a Straight interview request.)
Furlong must have been happier to receive a December 14, 2007, thank-you letter from Laureen Harper, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife, on 24 Sussex letterhead. She and her daughter, Rachel, were guests at the Surrey unveiling of the Games’ mascots. “[Ben and Rachel] really loved their 2010 hoodies, mascot books and of course the plush Quatchi’s [sic].”
Unsolicited ideas from excited Canadians appeared to materialize in 2010. Chief Chee Xial Taaiixou (Roy Jones Jr.) of Skidegate and Anita Carreau of Kelowna separately suggested in 2004 letters that First Nations drummers and dancers greet athletes at the opening ceremony. Self-described natural forester Bill Chernoff of Vancouver wrote to Poole in 2003, urging that B.C. wood adorn the convention centre walls.
The B.C. Liberal government exempted the federally incorporated, nonprofit Vanoc from B.C.’s Freedom of Information law, so board minutes, financial statements, and legal correspondence are closed until October 1, 2025, and contracts can only be opened before 2030 with third-party consent.
Depending on sensitivity, records containing personal information are restricted or closed until 2111. Ballem said files off-limits until the year after the Games’ centennial include athletes’ antidoping records. Correspondence about the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, or a list of torchbearers, for example, can be seen now, but the access agreement researchers must sign says that distributing copies of records and identifying named individuals isn’t allowed.
“Our archivists tell me they feel we reached a reasonable compromise,” Ballem said. “There may be some areas where we may have liked earlier access, but, in the end, they are [Vanoc] records.”