Ramping up for the 2010 Games

OLYMPICS/ Everyone that works with us knows how we're preparing for the games: 175 new spaces in our work experience and internship programs.  I've heard a few clients say that it's an ambitious number, too high to go during the recession.  Honestly - we could do 500.  Only two things are holding us back: accommodation (i.e. the lack of it) and staffing (we have to monitor and supervise all those people).

Here's why I'm not worried about the job side - from the Globe and Mail:

... much like elite athletes who must begin training well in advance of the Olympiad, some businesses have been preparing for 2010 with the start of the games circled on their calendars for more than a year.

For Betsy Cooper, the run-up to the games started one day in 2006 when she quit her job as a public relations executive in Toronto, packed all of her belongings — and her mother — into the car and drove west to launch her own PR firm, B-Co Communications.

"Really, with 2010 around the corner I thought what a great opportunity," she said. "It was a pretty obvious that if the Olympics are coming to Vancouver, companies are going to have to start focusing on this market, because the world's eyes are going to be here. Whether they're the Olympic sponsor or their competitor or maybe it's a small business in B.C. that wants to make their mark."

Some of her business comes through outsourcing deals she has arranged with Toronto-based PR firms, which has allowed her to find work with companies such as General Motors Corp., 3M Co. and Molson Coors Brewing Co. But the crown jewel of her client roster is Korath Wright, a 23-year-old snowboarding star who grew up in Canada and now competes for the Bahamas.

Although Mr. Wright has been ranked as high as 13th in the world in the half pipe event, comparisons with the Jamaican bobsledding team that competed at the Calgary Olympics in 1988 (and subsequently inspired the John Candy movie Cool Runnings) are unavoidable, Ms. Cooper said.

"He's pretty honoured to be put in a category with people who had a movie made after them, but at the same time he's a legitimate contender," she said. "He's a pretty great half-pipe snowboarder."

Two provinces away in Regina, the six men and women — and a dog named Molly — who make up the staff of Laurie Artiss Ltd., better known as The Pin People, have been feverishly designing hundreds of tiny lapel pins in honour of the games.

"It's very difficult for us to try to predict what pins are going to be successful," said company vice-president Chris Pasterfield. "We try to take advantage of what we think will be popular pins in terms of the sports and the venues landmarks, things like that, but we can't predict what pin will all of a sudden grab the public's fancy."

At the Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002, the most popular pin featured a bowl of Jell-O, made by The Pin People. At Winnipeg's Pan American Games in 1999, it was a guitar-themed pin that became a favourite for collectors. For the Vancouver Games, the company is creating pins that honour the various sports, venues, mascots and countdown days associated with 2010.

The Pin People began creating Olympics pins at the Calgary Games in 1988 and haven't looked back.

"In the 20 years that have passed, there's certainly things that have changed in terms of licensing," Mr. Pasterfield said. "The industry has really grown in terms of graphic standards and graphic controls in order to ensure that everything is adhered to properly."

Some of the pins designed by The Pin People are currently on sale through the Vancouver Olympics' official online store, built and run by Vancouver's ElasticPath Software.

Although ElasticPath has also built e-commerce platforms for big brands such as Groupe Aeroplan Inc. and Avis Group Holdings Inc., the Olympics have provided the company with a rare opportunity to showcase their expertise to a truly international audience.

"It's been great," said Matt Dion, the company's vice-president of marketing. "E-commerce is a real hot space, even in this economy, and with something like the Olympics, it adds to that list of high-profile customers and gets our name out there even more."

Notice what they're saying at ElasticPath.  Showcasing.

As I said we could place 500 people during the games without breaking a sweat.  That translates into a sizable fraction of a million dollars.  Don't think we're not tempted.  But rather than rake in short term cash at the expense of standards and our reputation - we're putting extra efforts into monitoring and quality control.  We'll be rolling out daily online media, photos, videos, multi-lingual testimonials ... this is our showcase, and in fact it's a showcase (whether you want it to be or not) for every business in Vancouver.  If you want it to work out for you, best to start preparing now.  Two or three years from now, our partners abroad will still be judging us on the quality of the work we do this coming winter.