Moving Mountains. Dodging Debt. What’s next?

January 21, 2010


It’s been said that bad things comes in threes.  If so, then the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games should brace itself.

First, the Pineapple Express has rolled into Vancouver bringing unseasonably high temperatures and heavy rain. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) has thrown in the towel to the snow gods at Cypress Mountain – host site of freestyle skiing and snowboarding events.  VANOC executive vice-president Cathy Priestner-Allinger conceded that the organizing committee is planning on not having snow at Cypress Mountain and that it will have to be transported to the race courses from higher up the mountain by sno-cat, trucks and helicopters. Crews are placing wood and straw on the freestyle, moguls, ski and snowboard cross venues to be covered with the snow and gravel may be laid down alongside race courses so that spectators don’t kick up clouds of dust.

Priestner-Allinger is confident that moving mountains of snow onto the race course will do the trick. ‘We are focusing entirely on the field of play. That’s where the cameras are, for the most part,’ she said.

Second, a group of financial institutions owed by the owner of Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort – Official Alpine Skiing venue for the Games – have scheduled an auction to sell off its assets.  The creditors, including Davidson Kempner Capital Management LLC and Oak Hill Advisors LP ran an ad in the Wall Street Journal announcing the sale of Intrawest ULC properties. Fortress Investment Group LLC, a New York based private equity and hedge fund firm, bought Intrawest in 2006 for $2.8 billion USD and recently missed a $524 million debt payment. Intrawest owns Whistler Blackcomb and nine other ski resorts, two heli-skiing operations and a myriad of other resort properties. While Intrawest CEO Bill Jensen puts on a brave face saying ‘Its business as usual’ and Dan Doyle, VANOC Executive Vice-President, downplays the distraction saying there’s only ‘a very miniscule chance’ the proceedings could interfere with the Games, this is not how organizers envisioned rolling out the red carpet to the world in the days leading up to the Olympics.

If the auction were to proceed, it would at the very least be a black eye to British Columbia’s provincial government which has invested billions of dollars in the Games and can ill afford to see them become a public relations debacle.

Given that Cypress Mountain will likely resemble a Potemkin village with ribbons of white surrounded by hectares of dirt and that Whistler Blackcomb teeters on the edge of foreclosure, we shudder at the thought of what will happen next.

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One Comment on “Moving Mountains. Dodging Debt. What’s next?”

  1. Scott MacLeod Says:

    It is definitely going to be an interesting few weeks to watch and see how all of this plays out!


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