In preparation for the 2010 Games, every municipal worker in Whistler was handed a 2009/2010 Whistler Staff Companion Book, aptly titled, The Spark, the Fuel, the Flame.

Despite claims by International Olympic Committee coordination commission chairman Rene Fasel on August 26 that he was “extremely happy” with the work done and with Vancouver’s enthusiastic fans, it’s obvious after reading the handbook, that VANOC has not won over the public.

The 20-page full-colour, coil booklet is jam-packed with important information like the staff uniforms, the “Dos and Don’ts for Games-time success,” The Power of a Team, and a personalized letters from VANOC CEO John Furlong and Whistler CAO, Bill Barratt.

Surely this information could have been emailed to staff.

The most entertaining section was “Showing Your Canadian Pride at Games-time” that included these Top 10 tips:
• Wear red and white clothes under your uniform
• Keep your Christmas lights up post-holidays and make sure they’re red and white (mine are blue LEDs – is that a punishable offence?)
• Safely decorate your car or RMOW vehicle with a Canadian flag
• Wear Canada pins and hand them out to guests when you can
• Consider learning a few words in French – Hello and bathroom directions are a good place to start
• Decorate your home with the Olympic rings & Canadian flags
• If a Canadian athlete is being awarded a medal, make some noise
• If you hear Oh Canada being played, sing along.
• If you are at an event – wear red and white, get the cow bell and the temporary tattoos and get out there
• Be friendly – it’s what we’re known for!

Personally, I find these suggestions mindless and patronizing.

These employees are tasked with maintaining our roads, ensuring our drinking water is safe, and looking after municipal finances. Do they need to be told to cheer when a Canadian athlete is on the podium or to sing the national anthem? What’s the point of decorating your vehicle if you can’t even drive during the Games?

Canadian pride would come naturally if the Games were properly executed and VANOC had done their job and managed the debt load. VANOC must be insecure if it’s relying on government employees to generate Olympic Spirit and cheers during the Games, by promising them free tickets, fridge magnets and blue Arc-teryx jackets.

With over 300 municipal employees, what happens if one of the staff refuses (or forgets) to wear red or white or decorate his/her home with the Olympic rings? Is it grounds for dismissal or punishment?

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government bussed local residents to different venues and ordered them to wear yellow t-shirts. Their sole job was to sit in the empty stands, wave flags and cheer “Go China” while looking into the TV cameras.

Perhaps VANOC could hire the local high school students (who will be off school for three weeks due to forced school closures next February) to wear red and white t-shirts and sit in the empty stands to cheer for Canada and generate TV audiences for broadcast sponsor, CTV.

I can’t see Canadians or BC residents uttering the same robotic cheers or displays of patriotism, especially with the current economic situation.

BC residents have been lambasted with budgetary cuts on a seemingly daily basis. In the past two weeks, we’ve seen cuts to health care, surgeries cancelled during the Olympics, cuts to arts organizations and cancellationof high school sports, the closure of B.C. Tourism, cuts to public libraries, and the unpopular new 12 per cent HST (Harmonized Sales tax) that goes into effect on July 1, 2010. The BC budget will be announced on Sept. 1s and I’m certain there will be more bad news to go around.

Please spare me the forced Olympic spirit!


Pina Belperio

Welcome to Word of the Rings, a new blog that aims to serve as a one-stop examination at what’s happening behind the scenes in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. Pina...