Sochi’s slip-ups will be Vancouver 2010 Olympic legacy’s gain

An intriguing battle is brewing for Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey. Not only is it the first Super Bowl outdoors in cold weather, but both teams have British Columbia ties.

An intriguing battle is brewing for Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey. Not only is it the first Super Bowl outdoors in cold weather, but both teams have British Columbia ties.

And you thought it was just the Seattle Seahawks, who count about 10% of their CenturyLink Field fans as cross-border gridiron shoppers.

American-born Canadian Pat Bowlen owns the Denver Broncos. He bought 60.8% of the team from another American-born Canadian, Edgar Kaiser Jr., in 1984.

Resource magnate Kaiser was a Howe Street player and the Bank of British Columbia’s last chairman before HSBC bought it in 1986. His Kaiser Foundation was a couple of decades ahead of its time as an advocate for mental health and addiction causes.

Kaiser bought the Broncos in 1981 for $30 million. Now they’re worth in excess of $1 billion. Kaiser died in 2012 in Toronto, but his legacy remains alive and well.

The Baltimore Colts drafted quarterback John Elway first overall in 1983, but it was Kaiser who spearheaded the trade to bring him to the Mile-High City. Elway led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl championships and was MVP in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Elway became executive vice-president of football operations for the Broncos in 2011, which led to the Broncos acquiring quarterback Peyton Manning in 2012. Without Kaiser acquiring Elway in 1983, the Broncos may not be on the cusp of winning a third Super Bowl next Sunday.

B.C.’s other business tie to the Broncos is on the seedy side.

Back in 2002, Denver-based OmniTrax was exploring a bid for BC Rail and looking for an edge. Its lobbyists arranged to pay for BC Liberal aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk to fly to Denver and enjoy a November 11, 2002, Monday Night Football game between the Broncos and the Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders were 34-10 winners of the game, and CN was the winning bidder for BC Rail more than a year later. In 2010, Basi and Virk admitted to receiving bribes.

Controversial kickoff

Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2013 slogan was “our all, our honour.” The way 2014 began, the club may be hoping to make “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” the new mantra.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1974 debut of the North American Soccer League Whitecaps, who played through the league’s final season in 1984.

Camilo Sanvezzo was supposed to be the magnet for the fourth season of the Major League Soccer Caps. His transfer to the Gallos Blancos (White Cocks) of Queretaro of the Mexican first division was confirmed, coincidentally, on the 15th anniversary of Pavel Bure’s trade to the Florida Panthers.

From completely different sports and countries, yet the Russian Rocket and Camilo were the first players in their franchises to win their leagues’ goal-scoring titles with such grace. Sanvezzo might still be a Whitecap, had he gotten a raise after his 22-goal 2013 season.

The Caps/Camilo cock-up was the latest in a cascading series of problems for the Whitecaps, who once boldly aimed to become a top-25 soccer club in the world. The premature firing of coach Teitur Thordarson in 2011 and the return to England for CEO Paul Barber in 2012 showed all was not well in Whitecaps land. Principal owner Greg Kerfoot remains a media-shy mystery man. Chairman John Furlong is distracted by his various corporate directorships and the decades-old abuse allegations he is fending off. Coach Carl Robinson was not the team’s first or second choice to succeed Martin Rennie.

Training camp is underway and the season opens March 8 when the New York Red Bulls visit.

Games time

The opening of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics is drawing nigh, and all indications are that it will make the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and “ring-heads” nostalgic for Vancouver 2010. This time four years ago, there were worries about protests and lack of snow on Cypress Mountain. Sochi, by comparison, is synonymous with security fears, construction corruption and legislated discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Russia isn’t using Sochi as a tourism and trade marketing opportunity like Vancouver did. Instead, Sochi is intended to overcome the negative legacy of the 1980 boycott-plagued Moscow Summer Games and put president Vladimir Putin on a pedestal.

Unlike Vancouver, Sochi will include women’s ski jumping. BC Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon ruled in 2009 that women who wanted to ski jump at Vancouver 2010 were victims of gender discrimination, but the Swiss-based IOC controls the Games, and it was beyond the reach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canada’s first women’s ski jumping team is getting the cold shoulder again. Atsuko Tanaka and her teammates will be flying off the Sochi slopes without any Own the Podium funding, because they’re not expected to finish near the podium. Ski jumpers are also not among the 17 athletes in nine disciplines featured in the Canadian Olympic Committee’s #WeAreWinter multimedia ad campaign, by Toronto’s Proximity Media.

Tanaka and skeleton athlete Barrett Martineau are, however, featured in a Petro Canada ad campaign to promote the Suncor-owned company’s program to fill up the tanks of Canadian athletes-in-training for free. •