Rogers, Rudberg, Ridge & Andrews: Vancouver's "fallen soldiers" of the 2010 Games
Thanks to last year's putsch by Vancouver's reigning Vision party, most of the city's key leadership behind staging the 2010 Games was lost. In all the raucus rounds of backslapping taking place at 12th & Cambie, we musn't forget the critical roles played by former City Manager Judy Rogers, former General Manager of Olympic Operations Dave Rudberg, and former Deputy City Managers James Ridge & Jody Andrews. It was decisions by them which assured that Vancouver had a successful 2010 experience.
In fact, it has been argued by those close to Vancouver's Olympic Host City operations, that their work on the 2010 file was so complete that even when people who were not enthusiastic about the Games (and we're being charitable in that assessment) took control, Vancouver's Olympics was a success in spite of it. "We call [Rogers et al] 2010's fallen soldiers," says a Vancouver City Hall staffer. "What's regrettable is all the missed opportunities for Vancouver during the Games because we lost their leadership."
While people are quick to point out that there were big crowds at the LiveCity sites, most feedback from them was how poor the content was. LiveCity Yaletown had four corporate pavilions, plus the laudable West House which was hidden in a corner of the site. And of course there was the disappointing Vancouver House, which was originally planned to be an interactive celebration of Vancouver culture located at Library Square, until the Mayor's office decided that it would be moved to an empty corner of the Yaletown live site.
"Not many know the story of what happened with Vancouver House," says our insider. "The Mayor wanted to have a pavilion devoted to the topic of homelessness until people convinced him it would be too depressing for an Olympic party. Then they came up with the idea of promoting Green Capital. In the end, what really ticked off a lot of people is how often the venue was closed to the public while they held private parties. This is when people are lining up for hours to get into venues, and Vancouver pavilion folks were telling people to come back another time."
Vancouver was also criticized for failing to notify local businesses to avail themselves of the opportunity of participating in – and profiting from – the Olympic fever. Some business owners are now realizing that they have missed an opportunity to earn a lot of revenue from the crowds, and they're pointing the finger of blame at City Hall for this.
Another move by Vancouver City Hall – hiring a private public relations firm instead of using city staff resources – was a costly and failed attempt to manage the city's public image. Vancouver announced just 2 months before the launch of the 2010 Games that they were replacing their Director of Communications with a Toronto-area political appointee with no contacts or rapport with local media. That move might explain why the city required the help of Karyo-Edelman public relations.
However, when the front fence at the LiveCity Yaletown venue collapsed, and a concert-goer had her leg broken as a result, I'm sure that that public relations firm came in handy.
"Perhaps the biggest disappointment in all this is how bad the final LiveCity Downtown site became," says the staffer. "Original plans did not include the heavy security that eventually became a part of that venue, and the whole property [the former bus depot site] was to be used, not just a fraction of it." Critics have said that LiveCity Downtown was perhaps the worst of all of Metro Vancouver's live sites as it featured very little in the way of fun activities, the big screen was impeded by a fence around a large lighting rig, and the food on-site was third rate.
We can only speculate now that if we had stayed the course with the folks who were preparing Vancouver for the Games, if the city would have done a better job with these key venues. What we can say however, is that the City of Vancouver was outworked by Surrey, Richmond, the Province and the Royal Canadian Mint in terms of creating a memorable 2010 experience.