Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yes, the Olympics are great. But my advice to VANOC, If you make a mistake, at least make a feature of it!

An architecture professor of mine once gave me some advice that has often guided me through my life..."If you make a mistake, at least make a feature of it!"

In design terms it might mean adding some trim to a wall that is a bit crooked, rather than trying to disguise the fact.

In order to turn around some of the negative publicity, I think VANOC needs to adopt a similar posture to address the inevitable problems that will continue to arise throughout the Olympics.

Unfortunately, I am not sure this is happening....yet.

For example, we have all had to endure lengthy line-ups. Rather than think of the people waiting in line as a queue, think of them as an audience! The VANOC volunteers could be the show hosts, asking people where they are from, introducing people to their new neighbours...helping people to enjoy themselves in the line.

VANOC should also round up more street performers...there were quite a few downtown...why not invite/allow many more street musicians, magicians, and others to entertain people who are waiting in lines.

On a related matter, why do we always have to line up? Why not use the systems employed at Disneyland and other venues...for something like the zip line, or getting into Canada House, give people a number and tell them to come back at an appointed time. It's not too late to make some changes.

The fence around the Cauldron is another missed opportunity. For the life of me, I cannot understand why VANOC is continuing to allow the security people who have dominated so much of the event organization (at considerable unnecessary cost) to continue to dictate how things are done.

It seems like common sense to remove that awful make-shift chain-link fence completely and employ some of the thousands of police (many who appear to have been brought in from across Canada) and other security personnel to protect the flame. If it's a problem at night, then put up the fence.

The decision to modify the fence seems very foolish to me. The fence has become such a strong negative symbol of our Olympics, the logical and creative thing would seem to be to take it down. If God forbid some local protesters or terrorists damage it, then VANOC will be vindicated! But I don't think this will happen. And if I am wrong, could VANOC at least explain to us why the fence has to be there in its revised configuration. I have not yet heard any justification.

Let's talk about Cypress Mountain. Firstly, we should start by publicly mocking the Utah journalist who claims that spectators are falling through the bales of straw. We all know this isn't true.

But then we need to review what is really happening there, and be truthful. As I previously noted after my visit to Cypress on Saturday, it was obvious to me on the first day that there were inadequate food and shelter facilities to accommodate the number of spectators, especially since we had to arrive two to three hours in advance of the qualifying round, and then wait a few more hours for the finals.

But this could have been addressed without cancelling all the standing room tickets. If the concern is safety and we need more snow, bring in snow, or plywood to make the place safe. I am having trouble understanding why this issue cannot be addressed.

If the concern is inadequate facilities in terms of food and shelter, bring in some hot dog stands, some urns of coffee and hot chocolate, and allow people to bring their own food. (I refuse to accept the excuse given that outside food was restricted in case someone got sick....)

If they can't bring in another tent...and I can't believe there aren't some tents available, give people $5 umbrellas if it's raining (and let them keep them!) And bring in more performers and other entertainers.

The fact is, the VANOC spokesperson is right. It's bad to lose your luggage, but it is worse when it is not handled well. We are going to continue to have all sorts of problems, and negative press, until local residents, visitors and the media believe we are making the best of a bad situation.

Notwithstanding the current negativity, I think it can be turned around. I know John Furlong and he is an extraordinary person and leader. He has done a superb job of rallying 'the team' to accomplish a great deal up until this point. But there are mistakes...obvious mistakes...and rather than try to conceal them, let's acknowledge them with humour and thoughtful action. The way we deal with our mistakes can help make us all proud of these Olympics and our city.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good suggestions and comments! I am from Calgary, and was in Van from Feb 1-18 working on the containR project (across from the flame), so saw much of the fencing issues unfold "live". I agree with your summary. I also suspect VANOC did not anticipate the draw it would be...

They should have hired you as an "audience advocate" - fortunately the spirit in the city is so ebullient that everyone is forgiving and patient!