Vancouver 2010: Olympic Fever Hits the Agora Investment Symposium Director

This is odd, but Vancouver must be the warmest and greenest city to host the Winter Olympic Games…ever. Obviously, this place is known for having a very temperate climate, which we love when we are here for the Symposium in July. And just escaping the summer heat of much of the lower 48 states is reason enough to come to Vancouver. But as a site for the Winter Olympics, it seems strange that there are leaves on the trees, the grass is green, and people are running and biking along the waterfront dressed in shorts and maybe a light jacket, the week before the games begin.

Clearly that’s part of the appeal of this corner of the world. In midwinter you can comfortably ride a bike, go for a sail, or hit the ski slopes…maybe even all on the same day. If Agora were to open an office here, we would have a long list of volunteers willing to “take one for the team”, but for now we have to settle for just one week a year, in July.

Warm winter weather has severely impacted a local ski area called Cypress Mountain, host of the snowboarding, freestyle skiing, and ski/boarder-cross Olympic events. It sits high in the peaks above the city with amazing mountain, city, and water vistas. After the mountain closed for the season last spring, they piled as much snow as possible into specific areas on the upper flanks of the mountain, as a contingency plan for warm weather. Well, they need it. Rain, not snow, fell from the sky for much of the winter, and its too warm to fire up the snowmaking system. So, they pushed the old snow down the mountain, loaded it into trucks, and dumped it near the courses where it can be groomed into shape. On Tuesday, they began trucking snow in from almost 260 kilometers away. They expect to transport about 150 truckloads of snow, and enlisted the world’s second largest helicopter – the Sikorsky S64 SkyCrane – to move snow from other parts of the mountain (at a cost of $10,000 per hour). The alpine and Nordic ski races will take place up the road at the higher elevations of Whistler-Blackcomb, where record snowfall has occurred this year. The road to Whistler, called the Sea to Sky Highway, got a $600 million upgrade for the games, and is among the most spectacular drives in Canada.

As I wrote yesterday, I got a sneak peek at couple of new sites that we may be incorporating into the Agora Financial Investment Symposium. A new Fairmont hotel called the Pacific Rim is opening up this week just a few blocks from the Hotel Vancouver. It’s very chic and modern, in contrast to the sophisticated elegance we are accustomed to at our Symposium venue. The frantic construction activity resembled an ant farm, and I suspect they’ll be working around the clock, well beyond the time that the first guests arrive on Friday. What are all these construction workers going to build next?

There is an unimaginable amount of media present from all over the world. While walking down the street today, I was interviewed by a reporter from a major Chinese newspaper in Beijiing. After a few basic questions, they asked my thoughts on whether the local residents have truly embraced the “Olympic spirit”. I replied, “I’m not sure, I just got here, and am leaving on Friday”. Surprised by this response, they quickly ended the interview, as apparently I didn’t yet have the spirit they were looking for. I’m pretty sure I won’t be quoted in their article.

It’s amazing what this city has accomplished in preparing to welcome the world to Vancouver. The sea of banners and floating Olympic rings on the harbor are just window dressing for this world-class metropolis. It is easy to get caught up in this excitement. My purpose for traveling here was not to catch Olympic fever, but to finalize plans for the Agora Financial Investment Symposium. As it turns out, I did both.

See you back in Charm City,