SBD/Issue 17/Olympics

VANOC Responds To Criticism Surrounding Right To Play Ruling

VANOC appears to be "softening its position" on allowing humanitarian group Right To Play to be present in the athletes village at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics "after all the adverse publicity the disclosure of their plans in that regard has caused," according to Randy Starkman of the TORONTO STAR. VANOC Exec VP/Revenue, Marketing & Communications Dave Cobb, in a letter to various Canadian newspapers, said, "Our 2010 sponsors have made significant and unprecedented financial commitments totaling over $1[B] to the 2010 Winter Games, the Canadian Olympic teams, Own the Podium 2010, numerous grassroots sports initiatives and other charities. As such, VANOC has a responsibility to protect the exclusivity that has been promised to our sponsors to ensure the success of the 2010 Winter Games and the long-term financial support of high performance and grassroots sport in Canada." Cobb noted, "One of these sponsors is General Motors, which has been unfairly blamed for interfering with Right To Play’s desire to have a presence in the Athletes’ Village. Not true. To the contrary, GM has strongly encouraged us to find a way to work with Right To Play." Cobb said VANOC informed Right To Play "that we would like to continue our discussions but with assurances that Right To Play activities and sponsors will not be positioned in a way that could infringe on the rights of Olympic sponsors." In addition, IOC Media Relations Manager Emmanuelle Moreau in an e-mail said, "The IOC has been supporting Olympic Aid/Right to Play since its creation and has agreed to provide them with privileged access and position during the Olympic Games. We are currently reviewing the details of our collaboration" (, 10/7).

GM PLEADS INNOCENCE: GM Canada VP/Corporate & Environmental Affairs David Paterson, in a letter to the GLOBE & MAIL, writes GM Canada "was not involved in 'banning' Right to Play" from the Games. Paterson: "It's our understanding that there have been ongoing discussions between Right to Play and VANOC over a long period of time as this charity has developed into a respected international group with many sophisticated commercial partnerships of its own." Paterson added GM Canada has "consistently encouraged VANOC to resolve the issues at hand and we have every confidence that will be achieved. GM Canada has contacted Right to Play with our offer to host some of the children it supports and may be bringing to the Vancouver Games" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/8).

Right To Play's Koss Willing To Compromise
In Order To Get Presence At 2010 Games
OFFERING A SOLUTION: The GLOBE & MAIL's Gary Mason wrote GM "lost a few customers on the weekend" after news that Right To Play had been banned. Right To Play earlier this year "received a nearly half-million-dollar donation" from Mitsubishi, and VANOC was concerned that Mitsubishi "might be using its association with Right to Play to get exposure at the Olympics." Mason wondered, "What if Right to Play agrees not to mention sponsors that aren't Olympic-certified in any promotional material it hands out at the Games," in a sense "have a sponsor blackout during the Games so if someone visits the charity's website he or she won't be bombarded with images of Mitsubishi or some other charity that is a rival of an Olympic sponsor?" VANOC CEO John Furlong said that he "would consider allowing the charity to set up operations at the Games under those conditions." Right To Play Founder Johann Olav Koss, when asked if the organization "could live with these terms," said, "Yes. For the days of the Olympics and during the period the athletes village would be open, no question we would agree to those conditions." Koss indicated that VANOC "had told him earlier that, if he wanted access to the Olympics, then the organization had to agree not to hold any fundraisers before the Games began that were underwritten by a non-Olympic sponsor." This was something Koss "couldn't live with as fundraisers are the lifeblood of any charity" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/7).

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