VANOC hires special services for athletes' mall
The smile from a gold medal win is a beautiful thing. Hair matted by a day sweating underneath a toque, maybe not.
For the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, organizers are working to make sure everyone looks gold-medal ready all the time.
The organizing committee, known as VANOC, put out the call this week for companies interested in providing a hair salon, florist, greeting-card store and chocolate shop to the athletes and dignitaries coming to the Games.
Chocolate for sale at an elite sporting competition?
"(It) completely goes against what we think about an athlete eating, but then again, once they're finished performing I guess that's when they pull all the bells and whistles out,'' said Nejat Sarp, vice president of services and villages.
Part of the International Olympic Committee's technical guide to putting on the Games specifies that certain services must be provided in the villages that are home to around 6,000 people during the Olympics.
But Vancouver's organizers want to take it a step beyond, creating a plaza that will provide people with what they need but give them a sense of Vancouver at the same time.
"Our focus here is trying to create something that really gives a sense of place,'' said Sarp.
"We want to make sure the fact that while we provide the services, we do it in such a way that fits in with our overall ambience in the village so that the place is really kind of fun.''
A news stand, travel agency and general store are also being planned -- those will serve both the athletes and the thousands of journalists expected to attend the event.
The tricky part of running a little strip mall in the middle of the Games is the myriad partnerships VANOC and the International Olympic Committee have with suppliers of everything from mattresses to beer.
Once a business is the "official'' anything of the Games, it's the only one that's supposed to be used in connection with the event.
In the documents sent out this week, VANOC specified that the retail services can use only a VISA credit card system, and that they may be told that products made by Games sponsors "be incorporated into the product offering to the exclusion of any competing products.''
In the case of the news stand though, the free market will reign.
VANOC has signed deals with The Globe and Mail to be the national newspaper of the Games and Canwest to be the regional paper.
"One thing that one has to remember is that there are 80 nationalities inside the village and there are 80 different countries,'' said Sarp.
"I'm not suggesting we'll have 80 different types of newspapers to go but we will need to have a variety that addresses the various needs depending on the location of where the teams are visiting from.''
Pricing at the market will be in accordance with local retail rates and Sarp said shopkeepers can expect to do good business, though it won't be business as usual.
"Concessionaires should be comfortable in providing high levels of service under often challenging conditions,'' the documents state.
"Consideration should be taken for factors such as heightened security within the venues, where only properly accredited individuals will be allowed access, stringent security measures required to access the venues, specific delivery schedules that will need to be complied with extended hours of operation, etc.''
The shops won't be open to the public.
Sarp said he hopes retailers show a little creativity in their bids.
"We've got to make it fun,'' he said. "Otherwise it's too boring.''