What Backroom Deal Got us the Olympics?

So Premier Gordon Campbell may have cut a deal with former city councillor Jim Green to gain his support for Vancouver’s 2010 bid, a recent interview with a Huffpo writer and Mr. Green reveals. That's politics, some would say. But was it a good deal? Was it enough?
by Chris Shaw
Almost six years ago, on the day Vancouver won its Olympic bid, Jim Green was on the stage at GM Place, celebrating a win he hoped would benefit the city’s poorest. That morning,, Green was in tears, storming around in fits of exuberance and delight.

“Jim stretched both arms overhead, his fingers flashing a victory sign, and he paced back and forth across the stage with tears streaming down his face,” city councillor Anne Roberts said in an interview last week.

Jim Green, long considered a formidable East Vancouver dealmaker who lost a bid for mayor, actively campaigned for the ‘Yes’ side before the 2003 citywide plebiscite. He may also have been a crucial factor in the favourable outcome of that vote. It is hard to overestimate the role Green played in Vancouver’s Olympic saga.

I have now confirmed a long-standing rumour that Green’s support for the Olympic bid hinged on promises from two important Campbells: Gordon, the Premier and Larry, the mayor at the time. Green said this week that both the Premier and the former Vancouver mayor courted his support for the Games in return for 200 social housing units in the Woodward’s development and other guarantees for low-income communities. [see Megan Stewart’s interviews with Green and Campbell, coming on Friday and Saturday.]

Chicago freelance journalist Tom Tresser, an outspoken member of No Games Chicago, met Green at a Chicago restaurant earlier this month. Tresser writes for the Huffington Post and interviewed Green in the Chicago Fairmont Hotel. Green spoke extensively about his background in Vancouver city politics, his role in the founding of the Olympic “watchdog” group, Impact of Olympics on Communities Coalition (IOCC), and why he supported of Vancouver’s bid.

“[Green] was relaxed and comfortable and spoke freely and with enthusiasm.”

When Tresser asked Green why he eventually promoted the bid, Green replied, "The mayor called me into his office and said the Premier phoned me. He doesn't want you to oppose the Olympics in the referendum [plebiscite], okay? This is what we need: Woodward’s, 200 units of social housing, this and that. We went over and had a press conference. He (Gordon Campbell) handed us the deed and we paid $5 million, about one fifth the cost...and 200 units of social housing, and in downtown Vancouver that's a lot of money.

“So that was what I needed to support the Olympics and I did. And we won (the plebiscite) by 67 per cent."

Green said he had previously confirmed the rumour many believed to be true. In an interview with Observer reporter Megan Stewart, Green said he had gone on the record many times already about accepting the offer from the province and the city. He was proud of his decision. “I’ve seen at least 30 publications that have something to that effect. I have said this publically tonnes of times,” he said.

In 2003 Green told Allen Garr of the Vancouver Courier there wasn’t “anything wrong with (the) interpretation” that his negative stance toward the Games was a deliberate attempt to leverage Victoria for concessions.

That’s politics, Green seemed to be saying: a game of negotiation and compromise.

Anne Roberts, then a Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) councillor, said she remembers Green’s conversion to the Olympic cause. “Though I've often found Jim's stories over-inflate his own importance, in this case I think the Premier (and probably Ken Dobell (a city and provincial government lobbyist and former Vancouver deputy mayor) thought it was important to get Jim onside and were willing to negotiate something with him,” she wrote me in an email:

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