December 21, 2010
WikiLeaks releases U.S. diplomat's Olympic memo
By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER —- The RCMP diverted resources from marijuana-related investigations to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics security squad, according to a memo from the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver that was obtained by WikiLeaks and published in The Guardian.
“Law enforcement representatives working at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver are reporting that more and more of their contacts are being pulled to work on Olympics security issues,” Consul General Philip Chicola wrote Feb. 12, 2009, one year before the Olympics opened. “A (Drug Enforcement Administration) agent was told by one of his RCMP counterparts that by September all regional drug agents could be working on Olympics, with no investigations ongoing until March 2010. Already the RCMP has all but stopped marijuana-related investigations. RCMP is also undergoing severe belt tightening with new, stricter enforcement of overtime rules.”
The memo said Canada was “doing an excellent job” in developing an Olympic security strategy, but there were “some small signs” police were “feeling the pinch of economic and personnel shortages.”
Chicola wrote that U.S. authorities were sensitive to Canada’s sovereignty but were still working with the Olympic committee and police “with an eye toward any possible further assistance we can provide should the needs arise.”
Chicola’s memo was written exactly a week before the Canadian government announced the controversial $900-million security budget for the Vancouver Games. The original budget was $175 million.
Meanwhile, Chicola acknowledged the Olympic Village financing controversy, which became a “major factor” in the power shift at Vancouver City Hall. A secret loan guarantee to developer Millennium after a $100-million cost overrun led to then-mayor Sam Sullivan’s downfall and the November 2008 election of Mayor Gregor Robertson. In December 2008, U.S. financier Fortress Investment Group announced it wouldn’t deliver the final $458 million for Millennium because of financial losses from the subprime mortgage crisis.
“The new mayor, Gregor Robertson, found himself in the same hot seat, dealing with the possible collapse of the project. In the end, he sought, and was granted, special provincial legislative authority for the city to seek loans to cover completion of the project,” Chicola wrote. “Olympic critics have had a field day with the problems, promoting stories of taxpayer losses in the billions, and a combination of substantive factors led Moody's and Standard & Poor to place the City of Vancouver on credit-watch status.”Chicola wrote that David Guscott, the Olympic committee's executive vice-president of government relations, “was confident” the village would be finished and functioning on time.
“In VANOC's view the project has been caught in an unfortunate cross between municipal elections and the downturn in the economy, with the financial problems severely overblown."
On Nov. 17, 2010, B.C. Supreme Court appointed a receiver because of Millennium's $740-million debt.
Meanwhile, “most Canadians involved” hoped President Barack Obama and his family would attend the Games.
“The President is immensely popular in Canada and given the Games' proximity to the U.S. there are high expectations that the President and his family will make an appearance," Chicola wrote.
Obama eventually skipped the Vancouver Olympics, instead sending Vice-President Joe Biden to head the U.S. delegation at the Feb. 12 opening ceremony.