The near-3,000 media personnel arriving in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, which begin later this week, have been angered to discover that the usual levels of Olympian profiteering at their expense have extended even to the Games organisers, who are charging more than £150 for two weeks’ internet access.
Internet access for the media – an essential facility for photographers and reporters to be able to do their work – has been provided free of charge at previous Olympic Games in Athens, Beijing and Turin.
But as the whole of British Columbia appears to be readying itself to cash-in on the influx of international press – with coffee shops in the media hotels even resorting to hiking the price of a cup of coffee by 50 cents for the duration of the Games – VANOC. the Vancouver Olympic organising committee, has presented the media with Can$260 demand for internet access.
Among VANOC’s national partners is Bell, the north American telecoms giant.
BT is an equivalent sponsor for LOCOG, and while the London 2012 organisers have made expressions of desire that they hope to offer free online access for the media, no firm commitment to do so has yet been made.
Internet charging is not the first PR disaster to afflict Vancouver, where Winter Olympic chiefs banned the media from its troubled Cypress Mountain venue on Sunday.
The Cypress site, which will host the freestyle and snowboarding events, has been plagued by a lack of snow as Vancouver has bathed in mild temperatures.
The venue was shut to the public before 300 lorries, as well as a fleet of helicopters, were used to ferry snow down from the higher slopes. The site has been declared out of bounds to the press until Tuesday.
“We have nothing to hide,” VANOC vice-president Tim Gayda said on Sunday. “We must ensure safety and focus on the field of play. The media can visit Cypress on Tuesday.”
Training for the freestyle events has been switched to Whistler, the Alpine skiing venue, a two-hour drive north of Vancouver, but which has had more than 30 feet of snow in the last few weeks.