Vision Vancouver: A $200 million Olympic Village deceit?

Post by Mike Klassen in


"Rubbish" says NPA Coun. Anton to the idea she was accidentally not notified about Friday's briefing – see video

What a mess this whole affair has become thanks to Vision's handling of the file. See our update to this post below...

The decision by Mayor's office staff to stage manage a Friday technical briefing for media without the Mayor himself in attendance, nor any members of the political opposition in attendance is having huge blowback. First, many members of the media are just flat out annoyed at Vision Vancouver for their sneaky antics. The meeting was needlessly held on a Friday, Robertson was kept out of the story, and the opposition were deliberately not notified of the briefing.

We here at knew that Friday's technical briefing was coming down. We even tweeted about it at 8pm the evening beforehand.

It's take out the trash Friday tomorrow. Probably time for another announcement re the Olympic Village #vanpoli

Our notice was considerably less vague than the bulletin to members of council sent out five hours later:

Due to the intense media interest in this and the complexity of the issues we will likely have to provide the media with a technical briefing. pb

The ire of media is not something you want building during an election year, so the best advice for the Mayor's office staff would be to finally clean up their act, and stop trying to manipulate scribes from the Sun, Province, 24, G&M, CTV & Global. I'm not sure that's going to happen anytime soon, though.

Last night's GlobalTV story by Marisa Thomas, as well as CKNW's report by Janet Brown are in a way payback for trying to dupe the media. Vision have been working media hard to suggest that it was all an accident, but thankfully they're not buying that incorrect version of events.

The fact is that the Mayor's office in cooperation with the City Manager decided to hijack the techical briefing and use it to get good ink for Vision and bad ink for the NPA. A $50 million loss in the Village project? Pffft, says Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason.

The Webster Award-winning journalist is floating the idea that the losses at the Olympic Village are more like $230 million – and rising! Mason goes further to suggest that Vision's spin machine are doing more harm than good, and that they better start being honest with the public:

I have no problem with outlining some of the decisions made to help cushion the blow to taxpayers. But at least be honest about what the final tally is instead of trying to deceive people.

When you've got one of the most respected voices in Vancouver's media in effect accusing you of trying to deceive the public, maybe it's time Vision should rethink it's "take out the trash Friday" media strategy.

In the end the taxpayers don't care about the politics, they just want their money not being poured down the drain as it has been and continues to be in the Olympic Village project. $8 million in fees for the receiver, the empty rental and social housing, the losses on the sale of the land, and on and on...

Vision will try to continue to blame someone else for their own actions. Thankfully the media are understanding there's more to the story.


UPDATE: This afternoon Penny Ballem and Vision City Hall held another technical briefing, or "an update to their update" to specifically challenge Gary Mason's article which they referred to as "misinformation" in a media advisory.

Due to misinformation published today and continued media interest on the subject, an additional media technical briefing will be held today to further clarify Olympic Village Finances.

Please note the briefing is not for attribution however spokespeople will be available afterwards to make on-the-record comments. Also please note that, in the spirit of respect for fellow journalists, publishing information to web sites or social media channels during the briefing is prohibited.

So concerned about how they control the message, the media was ordered by Ballem's team not to tweet during the briefing! Apparently QMI/24 Hours scribe @BobMackin raised a stink on this and the City backed down to allow Twitter updates during the media briefing.

The rules that the City are imposing on media control would truly make a tin pot dictator blush. Gregor apparently really wasn't kidding when he suggested Communism ain't so bad.

It's amazing to think that Mayor Gregor's pal & Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is campaigning on the matter of deceitful government communication, when Robertson and his team are literally writing the book on it back at Vancouver City Hall!

UPDATE #2: Two fascinating developments also from Tuesday. G&M scribe Gary Mason went toe to toe with Coun. Geoff Meggs today on Mike Smyth's CKNW program. A caller told Mike & his guests, "quite frankly if you put lipstick on a pig and run it against Gregor, I'm voting for the pig." That triggered a discussion about something we've raised here at on numerous occasions. Why is it that Gregor Robertson seems to have a predisposition toward blaming everybody else for his own mistakes? How many times have we asked, "where's the Mayor?" Listen to what Gary Mason says in this exchange with Meggs (mp3):

"The Mayor should have been there. He's the leader of the City. He's there for the happy announcements, he's got to be there for the tough ones too. To push you in front of the cameras every time there's bad news on the Olympic Village, he's shirking his responsibility..."

Gary's remarks go straight to the heart of the failure of this administration.

If you think the wheels haven't already completely fallen off the bus, then go read Frances Bula's remarks and the comments by "Lucy" on her latest blog post with regards the decision to remove Fortress. Regarding the Friday briefing, Bula says:

I have to add here that I feel personally misled by what happened at the news conference on Friday, where the city aka city manager Penny Ballem explained the “$40-50 million write-down” the city would have to take on the village, which everyone understood to be the loss on the total amount of money owing on the village — both the $580 construction loan and the $180-million unpaid amount owing on the land.

The final word goes to "Mary," who comments:

More sad days for democracy. We do deserve better.

- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen on Twitter.


I saw that tweet and chuckled at the time, and of course the next day there it was.....

Let's not forget that Mayor Robertson took on the $1 Billion in debt without holding a plebescite as required under the city's charter.

And now he's leaving the same voters he ignored when it came time to borrow the money holding the bag for more than $200 million dollars in losses. And those losses have been incurred in no small part to his irresponsible remarks and egregious politicization of the OV during the election.

It's like in the Robin Hood story. Only in reverse. Taking from the poor (vancouver taxpayers) and giving to the rich (if you are a buyer in the OV). It's what Solomon and his 500 years plan is all about. Transfer of wealth. The Olympic Village is only a slice of the cake. One day who knows I may not be able to afford to live in my own house anymore (with everything else I have to pay for all the ammenities that we've got for free till now).
Gregor, Penny, Johnston, what a Crap Lot. Boy, oh boy!

Thank you Mike and Gary Mason for following this story through. It was obvious when:

• the primary source of income, the condo sales, have to be discounted +/-40%,
• the rentals are not even half rented 14 months later,
• market rentals are being subsidized, and
• the social housing is +/-$60m over-budget
• the Receiver's fees will be $8m,
• 60+ condo owners are suing the City to get out,

that a $40- $50m loss was much more than just Vision, Meggs and Ballem, being loose with the truth. It was the worst imaginable fantasy nightmare for Vancouver taxpayers.

Do the math (very roughly):

We've been told this is a $1 billion project. Approximately $700m was attributed to the condo portion of the project. Add a profit @ 15% = $800m. Include the condo sales income shortfalls @ +/-40%, so 60% x $800m = $480m total income. Take off the originally included profit $100m = $380m. Add in the $50m recovered from Millennium, Final = $430m. $660m owed to City - $430m = $230m just for the condo sales. Add in the above 6 bullet items for all of the above cost overruns @ say $100m = TOTAL PROJECTED LOSS of $330m.

Mr. Mason says the loss will be a minimum of $230m. When everything is finally put on the table, as the above rough calculations indicate, the losses will be probably in the order of $330m.

Vision, and Gregor Robertson, Geoff Meggs and Penny Ballem, in particular have some serious explaining to do. There is fudging figures and there is going to far, to the point that elected officials and senior staff appointed by them are deliberately deceiving the taxpayers of Vancouver. Which is it?

Vision and Ballem have a duty of care to put everything on the table now.

I love the fact that Larry Campbell is now stumping for the Olympic Village on behalf of Silly Hall. An appointed Senator with his snout firmly in the public trough and so far up Gregor's butt he can predict what his next meal will be. Too bad he couldn't predict this fiasco. Way to go Senator!

Wasn't it now Senator Campbell's COPE gang that insisted this was Platinum LEED project, rejigged it thus delaying the work, wanted a new kind of planning thereby not maximising the view values when this could be one of the best views in Vancouver?

Have the outstanding condo fees owed by the City due to the Strata been factored into these increasing costs?

A lot of fudging going on here. Time to spit out the facts and get them on the table. This a is truly a gang that can't even shoot straight!

Whoever is elected after this gang is gone in November is going to have a tough time getting Vancouver back on track financially. Residents better be ready to pull in their horns once we get a new gang who will run this city responsibly, honestly and without personal agendas to be funded by we Vancouver suckers.

Wasn't Senator Campbell one of the three that left Cope and formed Vision?

The second point, wasn't it changed to Platinum Leed by Robertson? could someone clarify for me..

I'm beginning to think we'd be foolish to expect ANY politicians to actually have the interests of the average person in mind.
The average renter, the average worker and YES the average homeowner.

People who don't seem to have any rights in Vancouver anymore.

Larry Campbell bought at the Olympic Village.

Hopefully, he is not one of the residents taking legal action.

George and Victor:

From what I can find, the original plans for the Oly Village residential buildings were set at aa LEED Silver standard. The communicty centre was to be LEED Platinum, but I can't see where the balance of the buldings were taken to a LEED Platinum as well:

A Proactive Approach, from Parking to Plants

With the SEFC Green Building Strategy, the City of Vancouver took a
proactive approach to environmental building design in SEFC, one that
would affect the environmental performance of buildings citywide.
Adopted as policy in 2004, the strategy establishes a minimum baseline
of environmental performance for building design and construction.
It applies to all new medium- and high-density residential, mixed-use,
commercial, institutional and industrial buildings in SEFC.
The SEFC Green Building Strategy required that all buildings be designed
to meet a minimum of LEED Silver certification. In addition, the City
added mandatory baseline requirements to ensure that sustainable
design was addressed comprehensively, across all aspects of building
and site design. The following are recommendations from the SEFC
Green Building Strategy in the areas of Energy, Parking, Landscape and
Water, and Waste Management.


This is interesting as well, and I had know clue it took place;

Building Opportunities
with Business

Millennium demonstrated a
commitment to capacity building and
social sustainability that produced
tangible community benefits before
construction was complete. In 2007,
Millennium began to work with
the City of Vancouver and Building
Opportunities with Business (BOB), a
non-profit organization that supports
local business development and
increases job opportunities for
inner-city residents. Millennium
and BOB created a “Community
Benefits Agreement” through which
Millennium committed to awarding
$15 million in contracts to inner-city
businesses and suppliers

..keep searching Max, I "know" you are on to something with the...

local business development and
increases job opportunities for
inner-city residents

Max... I was told Larry bought 2 units, but I can't positively confirm...

Mike K,
I love Gregor's most recent tweet you just we are freaking out about all the money we are on the hook for and what does our Mayor just tweet...

"MayorGregor Gregor Robertson
RT @VanMayorsOffice: Vancouver - what do YOU think @MayorGregor should wager w @MayorDaley #Blackhawks #Canucks #gameface
8 minutes ago

Perhaps this is time for City Caucus to do a retrospective on how the City of Vancouver got to this position with the Olympic Village and who was at the table when the decisions were made. I seem to remember that the Olympic Village goes all the way back to the Larry Campbell administration. Remember the Olympics were Glen Clark’s baby, not Gordon Campbell’s.

Who were the groups pushing so hard for social housing at the Olympic Village? (Jim Green??) Why Leed Platinum? Did this actually change from Silver to Platinum? Why was the land ownership not transferred to Millennium? A decision that made it impossible for Millennium to get a secured construction loan from Canadian Banks. This is why they ended up with an unsecured loan from Fortress. Explain to us why the CofV was forced to step in when Fortress decided to stop funding the project. My understanding was that Fortress was in their legal rights to walk away from the financing of the project when they did and that the CoV had to step in because they (1) still owned the property and (2) had committed to delivering the Village to the Olympics. At the time it sounded like the CofV had no choice. How much did the city pay for this land that it looks like it will get $0 for?

I suspect you will find many city politicians who were complacent/complicit in many of these decisions but I would love to see a timeline actually laid out in writing. I think at the end of the day it will look like a comedy of errors made by many people who now wish to finger point. Not one person has said. That was a mistake but at the time we didn’t think it was.

Please help us here City Caucus … much better than the finger pointing and arm-chair quarterbacking in the comments section.


At last report, $41 million was spent...

To date, Millennium has far exceeded
its procurement goal, facilitating the
purchase of over $41 million in goods
and services for Millennium Water
from more than 25 local businesses
and suppliers. The employment
program has successfully placed 87
trained individuals at the Olympic
Village and 33 people on other
construction sites. According to
BOB, one of the most positive
outcomes of this partnership was
the legacy of construction training
capacity that was developed through
the program. The initiative has the
advantage of being transferable
to future partnerships, and will
therefore create continuing benefit to
the community.

What is the report date of those numbers, and are these people still working..


The report covers off 2004 thru to 2009 (I think).

The cover shots on the front and back of the online books are attributed to a photographer and dated 2009.

Basically it chronicals all that is the Olympic Village to a certain date. The third book in the series is not on-line yet.

You can look at it in its entirety at
www.thechallengeseries dot ca.

Pretty interesting.

I worked at the Village ;-)

I think that, that since that dingbat has to vote on the expanded casino on April 19th, that the word "wager" is a stoopid word to use on his Twitter.

What a twit, alright...

BOB is struggling, and may be done soon.

Shirley Chan can't say that she wasn't good at extracting $$$ from businesses in order for them to do business with the city.

Perhaps Jim Green can fill us in?

Thanks. It might be time to follow-up on those stories now that we are seeing blatant deceit and finger-pointing coming from Vision. Given the up coming Civic Election I think it would be constructive for the voters to really see all the cards laid on the table. At this point in the process it would be better for Vancouver Taxpayers to have as much info as possible so that the financial damage associated with the project can be minimized.

The math people are throwing around is laughable. Just because the city is likely to get nothing for the land purchase at the OV doesn’t mean it’s a $190MM loss. The actual capital loss is what was paid for the property less what was received from the sale. The opportunity loss is what could have been obtained by selling the land. If Millennium had offered $10 billion for the land and defaulted on the offer it does not translate into a $10 billion loss. The same thing goes for shortfalls from projected sales. If you project receiving $100MM on sales of condos but only get $80MM there isn’t a loss associated with the project unless it cost more than $80MM to build.

Things I’d like to know are figures like (1) How much did Millennium collect in Project Management fees during construction? or (2) What are the CoV’s carrying costs of the financing for the project? or (3) could any real capital loses be avoided by selling the social housing component of the project into the market?

I like Gary Mason and think he's done a terrific job, digging into this story.

But he got pwned when he bought the Vision scare mongering tactic during the 2008 election that said that this was gonna be a $1 billion dollar bath for the city. That politicking helped kill sales at the Oly Village---and for that, Vision must be held accountable.

Now, finally, Gary sees "His Handsomeness" for what he really is: an empty, empty drum.

And I hope that he remembers that what Geoff Meggs giveth, Geoff Meggs taketh away. That being said, Geoff has picked a fight with someone who has a lot more ink...;-) And I hope he spills it.

Thus endeth's today's lesson.

Where did the laborers come from,
non profits, social enterprises?

What were the costs to "manage" said compared to the laborers wages..always follow the money...

If say the city monetized the anticipated value they would have received for the land and spent it in advance, it would be a realized loss on the value upon sale. A simple comparison could be drawn to a reverse mortgage, or HELOC upon the sale of a home to which debt is outstanding. Did the city spend money it didn't have? Of course, otherwise they wouldn't be raiding the PEF.

The Thought of The Night

“ Chicago. Year 1871. Fall. Patrick O’Leary (dairy barn owner): ‘Catherine, did you extinguish the lantern?’... ‘No dear!’
Carrollton. Year 1971. Winter. Father Daniel (Christian preacher) : ‘Mama, did you put out the candles?’ ...‘No dear!’
Berkley Hills. Year 1991. Fall. James (Hillbilly): ‘Amelia honey, have you seen my pipe?’... ‘No dear!’
Vancouver. Year 2011. Spring. Gregor: ‘Penny, may I play with fireworks in the Hall?’... ‘Yes dear!’

Four Great Fires. Three accidental. The fourth...not so much.”

I always wondered, what are Penny and Gregor’s favourite things after they started a fire? Considering the Olympic Village fire-sale and consequential fiasco the following tune and lyrics shall suffice:

“Handcuffs on Chop Bones and Shackles on Kickers,
Bright Copper Guards and Bathroom Soap Pickers,
Night Curfew old timers, best Pimps of Beijing’s,
These are a few of Penny and Gregor’s favourite things.
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember our favorite things,
And then we don't feel so bad.”

Didn’t your mamas tell you to never, ever play with fire?

We live in Vancoouver and this keeps us busy.

@Max et al, this note explaining the Village's LEED certification history comes courtesy of Brent Toderian:

I've seen the suggestion that the OV buildings were originally intended to be LEED silver, and that was switched to LEED gold, then platinum. In fact, there was indeed a change from silver to gold. But there has always been the intention to only have 2 buildings be LEED platinum - the seniors building that will also be "net-zero", and the community centre. The rest will be gold, as intended. I think many are confused because the broad community got a leed-nd (neighbourhood design) platinum rating, announced during the olympics. That's different than the leed-nc (new construction) achievement of gold, which relates to individual buildings, not the community scale. This LEED-nd platinum ranking is a significant acheivement that is more about a sustainable community, than building approaches and technologies. Hope this helps.

Having just heard Dr. Penny Ballem explain OV finances on CBC, all I can say is I promise not to perform any medical procedures if she'll promise not to do any more real estate developments.

The fact is, the Property Endowment Fund will soon have significantly less than it had when the city started development of the Olympic Village lands. This was never intended. Those costs were supposed to be covered by the revenues from the land.

Yes, it will have some partially serviced land adjacent to the OV.
But in the real estate business, when you don't cover your costs, that's a loss. And in this instance it's a significant loss to the citizens of Vancouver.


Supposedly Millenium put up $750 K towards a triaing for inner city workers:

As another part of their agreement,
Millennium established a $750,000
legacy fund for an employment
and training program to offer entrylevel
construction jobs to inner-city
residents. These funds allowed
BOB to create the Construction
Orientation to Retain Employment
(CORE) training program. This
comprehensive program begins by
providing participants with basic
life skills training such as math and
communication through a program
called Tradeworks. Following this,
participants pursue a skills training
course with the Vancouver Regional
Construction Association. Upon
completion, students will have
accrued seven industry certificates,
including first aid and fall safety.
The program provides breakfasts
and lunches for participants, and
basic equipment such as boots and
hardhats. Millennium committed to
creating 100 construction jobs for
inner-city residents who completed
the training program.

Further to the questions from 'Confused Taxpayer' here are 10 questions I would like answered.

I do not consider any of this privileged commercial information.

1. What is the current balance on the loan(s) taken out by the city to finance the completion of the Olympic Village condos, 119 unit rental building and retail space?

2. What is the amount owing on the initial $193M land payment promised by Millennium?

3. How much has the city spent on creating the OV site, including shoreline works, parks, environmental features, servicing, and providing the related amenities?

4. How much has the city spent to create the social/rental housing? How many of the units have currently been leased? What are the current monthly carrying costs? What is latest projected ‘normalized’ cost and required subsidy to keep these as 50% social housing, 50% market rental for the foreseeable future?

5. Is it true that 22 of the condos have now been rented out, as recommended by the receiver? If so, what is the monthly cost of maintaining these units based on their previous sales price amortized at an annual interest rate of 2.5%, applicable strata fees and property taxes? What is the monthly rent being received for these units? In other words, how much are we losing each month on these 22 units?

6. What are the estimated revenue projections for the remaining unsold condominium units? How many square feet remain unsold? What is the approximate average price per square foot for the different buildings?

7. What is the estimated sales period? What are the estimated carrying costs during the sales period?

8. What are the estimated revenues from the sale of the 119 unit rental building and the retail space?

9. The city is reported to have placed $5M in a reserve fund for future repairs. How much has been spent on fixing deficiencies. How much more is estimated over the next few years, and how much does the city expect to recover from the Home Warranty Program?

10. How much has been paid to the receivers to date for their fees, and related studies? What is the estimated cost to complete their assignment? What are the per diem rates being charged to the city by the receivers and lawyers working on the file?

As I have repeatedly said, one day the Olympic Village will be a wonderful, vibrant community. The problems associated with the project are not the fault of any one administration.

But it is clear that the announcement last Friday has confused a lot of people in the media, including Jeff Lee, Gary Mason, CKNW, CBC, and Frances Bula. Yesterday's explanation simply adds to the confusion. I hope we'll get some straight answers to the above questions so we can all know what's really happening financially at OV.

Mike, thank you.

When reading through the materials it stated the original plan was for LEED Silver with the community centre (which is lovely by the way) to be platinum.

To blanket state that the project is LEED Platinum is a bit misleading.

I hve to admit, I had not wandered around the Village until yesterday. I was in the neighborhood and did a walk through.

Once the dust settles, it will be a fabulous place to live. The area is beautiful and there are great amenities.

I still don't understand what the hold up is on getting the social housing portion filled. That is money lost daily.

Re: Geller 13 April 2011 7:22 AM, Question 3.

Some time back, making considerable effort to peer into the black hole of the Property Endowment Fund, and being told merely that Olympic spending was spread across a myriad of reports, I compiled what I could to see what has happened to over $150 million. See results at "Regular" Olympic Village Funding. An FOI which I have not pursued like a bulldog has wandered off into Vision-induced limbo …

"Where did the laborers come from"?

From the ranks of the unemployed. Most effective job training and social-purchasing program the area ever saw.

But never mind. The Conservative government cancelled all funding programs under the Vancouver Agreement (including BOB, and INSITE better watch their ass if you-know-who gets his precious Majority) which had been delivered through the Western Economic Diversification envelope. All extensively reported by all agencies involved on-line, and everyone involved justly proud of what they've accomplished. Instead we scrambled a wing of CF-18s to shoot Libya full of democracy or something.

Of course BOB was just doing what the City should have been doing but wasn't (and still isn't). The only jobs they created are in the SMT at the Hall and for several Members of Council.

If you really want to know more about BOB give Shirley a call. But you'd better hurry. She retires at the end of the month after 50 years working hard to improve conditions in Vancouver's troubled downtown.

No doubt someone from the City of Vancouver will step up and finally do something about economic development besides talking about mythical "green" jobs. Or maybe the private sector will look for hires among the human wreckage from the open-air asylum which seems to be the highest and best use for the heart of our city.

Interesting, according to their website, the Edgewater Casino has been a financial conributor, as has Hastings Racecourse.

Micheal Geller,

I think # 3 is an excellent question..

3. How much has the city spent on creating the OV site, including shoreline works, parks, environmental features, servicing, and providing the related amenities?

One question and one observation:
Does the pig have to have lipstick on to outpoll Robertson?

re Ballem-don't blame the dog, blame the owner.

Only one thing to add to the already comprehensive commentaries.
After reading Michael Geller's confession "Having just heard Dr. Penny Ballem explain OV finances on CBC, all I can say is I promise not to perform any medical procedures if she'll promise not to do any more real estate developments." and then Glissando's "Penny and Gregor’s favourite things" I have to say that's the best definition for "Cause and Effect"... Amen!

I didn't hear Ballem on CBC, but hearing Geoff Meggs' explanation on CKNW yesterday demonstrated to me that these people don't have a clue about their responsibilities when dealing with the public trust and taxpayer money - or financial matters in general. To claim that the City's improvements to the land are "assets" to the City and therefore not included as costs when calculating the loss was ludicrous. Add to that the claim that the City only paid $27 Million for the land, but got $29 Million from Millenium so there was really a gain to the City - and you see how much spinning these guys are doing.

Also - you brought up a good point on CKNW yesterday re: the $1 Million to study removing the viaducts and whether it was really an appropriate us of taxpayers' money at this time.

Sorry I didn't see this post yesterday...

Tradeworks has been around for a very long time,it switched directors around 2006-07... just before the Olympic deals were in place if my memory serves me..

Breakfast usually consisted of end of date foods, yogurt, etc.. Yes shoes were provided...

In funding language, most agencies offer training in First Aid, Whimis,Foodsafe etc...funding buzz words...appear to make work.

Safety training was not dealt with in my department...sadly.

You are doing great with the research Max, keep digging...

Ok this is creepy..
City Caucus tweet... tweet not creepy, but the subject matter..perhaps not thought out by the City?

Vancouver "Council appointed Rosemary Hagiwara as Acting Deputy City Clerk" during Apr 5 in-camera mtg 35 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

• Emergency Preparedness Week
• Organ Donor Awareness Week

timing is everything...

Especially organ donor awareness week in light of the city's continuing collaboration with Falun Gong's oppressors.

It really amazing that Mayor Gregor's pal & Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is campaigning on the matter of deceitful government communication. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Technical briefing on the media is really useful. The tax payer are only concerned about the money.The text is very much informative.

Check out!

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