Billion-dollar Olympic organization remains intact

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

VANOC named in several B.C. Supreme Court lawsuits following 2010 Games

Bob Mackin
Van. Courier

Two-and-a-half-years since the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics ended, the organizing committee has not yet closed its books.

VANOC chief executive John Furlong delivered the final post-Games report to the International Olympic Committee’s annual meeting in Durban, South Africa on July 7, 2011, and said the wind-down was “substantially complete.”

“We’re very close to being no longer and by this time next year, we will, in fact, be no longer,” Furlong told IOC members.

But VANOC chair Rusty Goepel told the Courier another annual general meeting will happen this fall and the board, which includes city manager Penny Ballem, will be downsized. He expects responsibilities will eventually be turned over to civil servant “caretakers” from city hall and the federal and B.C. governments. “It’s quite a bit of work, it was a $2 billion company,” Goepel said. “It doesn’t get done overnight.”

VANOC incorporated Sept. 30, 2003 and its fiscal year runs Aug. 1 to July 31. Last year’s annual general meeting was Dec. 13, 2011. Goepel said the organization is not in deficit and has not needed any additional public funding.

“The amount of activity is really pretty minimal,” said Dick Pound, a Montreal-based IOC member and VANOC director. “Basically it’s a matter of making sure all outstanding lawsuits and claims are settled before you try to dissolve the corporation.”

VANOC’s last public disclosure was Dec. 17, 2010 when it reported a $1.884 billion balanced operating budget, after an additional $187.8 million from taxpayers. The original May 2007-released operating budget did not contemplate taxpayer funding. The recession dashed surplus hopes and VANOC received bailouts from governments and the IOC. In 2009, the IOC had pledged up to $22 million extra. IOC spokesman Andrew Mitchell said “the financial aspects” of its relationship with VANOC were “completed this summer to the satisfaction of both parties.”

The November 2002 Multiparty Agreement required VANOC to provide quarterly and annual financial reports to funding governments. A B.C. Finance Ministry representative, on condition of anonymity, said the last one received was in December 2010. “The province no longer requires quarterly financial reports from VANOC,” said the official.

VANOC was named in several B.C. Supreme Court lawsuits after the Games, to which VANOC filed defence statements denying the claims.

A Jan. 6, 2014 trial is scheduled for Wei-Pin (Sarah) Chen, a Vancouver bank teller who claims she was injured by an ICBC-insured, GM vehicle driven by an unknown female VANOC worker near Burrard Station on Feb. 10, 2012.

Coquitlam automotive technician Walter Baldauf sued several parties, including VANOC, after he allegedly tripped Feb. 19, 2010 on the temporary plastic tile system placed over the formerly grassy Vancouver Art Gallery north plaza. He claimed he broke his right leg and ankle at the B.C. government live site.

Powell River restaurateur Todd Hodgins claimed in a Jan. 20, 2012 filing that he was a front seat passenger in a car that was t-boned by the temporary Bombardier Olympic Streetcar at the Moberly Street crossing on Feb. 19, 2010.

Mario’s Gelati sued VANOC and the three governments on March 3, 2010 for lost business because of road closures and security fences near the Olympic Village. A Nov. 26, 2012 trial was scheduled, but the matter has been adjourned. VANOC applied to a judge for copies of the ice cream company’s financial records to determine whether its losses were as severe as the $2.5 million it claimed.

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