An excerpt of the ...
Olympia Restaurant Battle
with VANOC & the IOC
In most circumstances you can’t legally use symbols associated with the Olympics to promote your products or services, but there are exceptions, which are, truly, few and far between. I would like to illustrate for you one extraordinary example. It represents one of the first times in history the IOC has been stopped cold in their brutish battle to monopolize their presence in a region. At the time of the publishing of this book in 2006, a historic standoff is attracting international attention. It is taking place in British Columbia in regards to the 2010 Games. On Denman Street in Vancouver, a small Greek-styled restaurant, that seats less than one hundred people, found itself embroiled in controversy over the use of the five rings and torch that has been displayed on the outside of their little establishment for more than fifteen years. For ten years, and then all through the five-year Bid and ramp up process, no one from any Olympic organization in the world ever complained. The restaurant at the time of the printing of this book is at 998 Denman Street in Vancouver. It is called the Olympia.
In 2004, Mosi Alvand (pronounced Moosie), one of the co-owners of the restaurant, was surprised when he received a letter from the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee) demanding that he remove his sign or face a lawsuit. Mosi who is friendly and gregarious was shocked and didn’t know what to do. He felt intimidated and threatened by the harsh demand. The expensive and ornate neon sign that hung on the front of his little restaurant for over fifteen years was an integral part of his identity. He’d been operating from day one at this location with exactly the same signs, menus, and napkins. Now the powerful Olympic organization was demanding that he destroy the symbols that personify his livelihood. He was concerned for his business and his family. His wife and children were anxious, and so were his partners. Olympic organizations are powerful enterprises and have deep pockets. Out of the blue the Olympic organization was acting like a bully, and to Mosi it seemed completely out of character.
At the first hint of the attack against the Olympia restaurant I approached Mosi to offer media relation advice. I also offered to register a domain for him (998Denman.com) and build a very simple website on his behalf. Mosi was out of his element, and after one conversation I realized that if I didn’t act quickly the media would either lose interest or turn on him. Like most people, Mosi was not familiar with how Olympic organizations operate. He absolutely loved the Olympics and had no idea how monopolistic and profit-centric they could be. He was proud of his sign and that for the last fifteen years he was such a visible Olympic supporter in the city. If anything, he should get a medal, not be attacked by the organization he loved so much. His love for the Olympics was as genuine as the shock he experienced as a result of their intimidating tactics.
I didn’t have time to convince Mosi how precarious his position was so I offered to register and pay for his online presence. I wasn’t worried at all about investing a few thousand dollars on his behalf because I knew from the outset it didn’t matter what happened, Mosi and the Olympia restaurant were morally right and at the end of the day they could not lose. Even if the IOC and VANOC beat him into submission in a court of law and forced him to remove his sign he would come out ahead in the court of public opinion. It was classic David and Goliath. It didn’t take long before the Vancouver Sun, the largest local daily newspaper in the region, published an article about how bad it was for businesses to infringe on Olympic trademark and intellectual property. They reported that trademark infringers would make it “impossible” for Olympic organizations to interest sponsors, and they used quotes from ‘self-professed’ experts at VANOC to bolster their position. They didn’t name Mosi and the Olympia restaurant directly, but the article implied it was people like him who were responsible for communities ending up with enormous debt because Olympic organizations couldn’t attract sponsors. The reality is that communities end up in debt because local Olympic organizing committees mismanage the spectacle on a dozen other levels. Mosi became concerned for the safety of his family when the Sun article tried in vain to turn the public against him. Still, he didn’t waver. Meanwhile, smack dab in the middle of the controversy Bell Canada was awarded the telecommunications Olympic sponsorship for a record breaking $200 million. It was almost half of what VANOC had expected to raise in its entirety. To the thousands of people already supporting Mosi the Vancouver Sun looked petty for trying to turn the public against the little restaurant. The ink on their story wasn’t even dry when VANOC announced the Bell coup. (vs1)
We sent hundreds of email messages to media outlets to correct misinformation regarding the battle being waged against the Olympia restaurant. Local media gave Mosi an opportunity to tell his side of the story. They called for interviews almost every day. Mosi was overwhelmed with the attention of both the media and the public, who strongly supported him. Around this time Mosi and I had an opportunity to meet and plan a strategy. He was skeptical at first because he didn’t know my company or me, but once I gave him advice on how to deal with media during an interview, and after we had a few media successes together, he came to trust me. I was genuinely worried about his well being, and warned him constantly that Olympic organizations would probably not give up. They would throw truckloads of money at the problem because to lose would mean they might lose control of their intellectual property in Canada. He was adamant about his position and he never wavered. He told them “No”, he wasn’t taking down his signs, and he meant it. He compared it to a bird destroying its own nest.
By the time I had my first meeting with Mosi, a patron of the Olympia restaurant started a petition. It very quickly attracted a thousand names. Within a week we had a website online that also collected thousands more, almost 600 hundred from Korea (Seoul hosted the Games in 1988). Many of the people who personally signed the petition in Vancouver had never been to the restaurant, ever, but were upset and shocked by the harsh action of VANOC. People all over the world supported Mosi out of principle.
I advised Mosi to be cautious in not only what he said, but also how he delivered his messages. In some cases I wrote statements for him to read to media. He did dozens of interviews over a three or four month period. He also looked to local politicians for support. Some spoke with him immediately and publicly supported him, while others wrote articles in business trade papers criticizing his naiveté. We dealt with them individually and used every mention to our advantage. When politicians criticized the Olympia we put their responses under a microscope and demonstrated to media and business leaders why their position was wrong and hurtful for the local business community. One councilor in particular, Peter Ladner, wrote an article stating he supported VANOC and criticized Mosi. When Mosi saw the article he was furious. We were in agreement that Mosi should contact the councilor directly, not to confront him but to ask for his help. Mosi was a taxpayer, the councilor was supposed to be there to help residents and members of the small business community. The initial request fell on deaf ears. I even responded directly to Ladner, but it did nothing to encourage him to print a more fair account of what the story was really about. Basically he ignored us. He also stated unequivocally that local government had no responsibility to help SMBs leverage Olympic momentum. In an emailed response to me he wrote, “The bizarre nature of the Vancouver City Council motion was that the council somehow assumed they could help small businesses re the Olympics. How?” How indeed Mr. Ladner. How about revealing both sides of the story? SMBs do not need to be led by the hand, but it would be nice to give them a heads up regarding what they are up against regarding the increased cost of doing business in an Olympic region. That would be a good start. One year later the media was full of stories of commercial property values skyrocketing and taxes going through the roof, but still politicians loathe admitting it has anything to do with Olympic frenzy. Instead, they’ve deluded themselves into thinking it has something to do with their political talents.
On February 1, 2005 the president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, came to Vancouver to inspect the progress the region was making in its ramp up to the Games in 2010. It was a big event full of pomp and circumstance. Every media outlet covered every moment of his tours in the region. The Vancouver Board of Trade hosted a reception for a thousand business people. British Columbia Premier Gordon Camp-bell, VANOC CEO John Furlong, and a host of others spoke at the event, including of course, Dr. Jacques Rogge.
As soon as I heard Rogge was coming to town I suggested to Mosi that he re-quest a meeting with Rogge, and suggested he ask Furlong to set it up. Mosi considered it and then did so through his lawyer. As I expected and secretly hoped, the re-quest was ignored. Instead Furlong sent a request to meet with Mosi to discuss a resolution. However, the invitation had a compliance nuance to it. Furlong was putting a time constraint on the meeting and trying to force control. As soon as I read the letter I knew Furlong’s state of mind. Rogge was on his way and there was great potential for the issue to attract international attention. Plus, in a sense, Rogge is Furlong’s boss, and you never want your boss to think you are out of control. I bought two tickets for the big event and invited Mosi to join me. Mosi wasn’t too keen about it at first, but soon came to realize it was a good move for him to meet Rogge face to face – Mosi coming to the mountain.
Furlong seemed to stumble half a step behind us throughout this whole ordeal. I suspect he wanted to resolve this issue quickly because he knew it could be embarrassing on an international scale. So far we hadn’t made enough noise in Vancouver to cause the IOC to step in, but it was only a matter of time. I knew Furlong would never set up the meeting with Rogge, but was relieved to be ignored. I really wanted a public confrontation – full bore with the media present.
After I bought the tickets I arranged for a press conference to take place forty-five minutes before the Board of Trade event. I set the press conference up in a banquet room of the same hotel, the Hyatt, and invited every key media person I could find. Within hours of setting it up the phone began to ring off the hook. Everyone wanted to know what Mosi was going to do at the event. They were professional enough not to ask what Mosi was going to say during the press conference, but they wanted to know if Mosi was going to cause trouble. It would have been foolish to plan a disturbance even though it would have caused a huge media stir. I told them of our plan to make a pre-statement that Mosi was just there to have a brief face to face with Rogge in order to explain the situation. We were not going to purposefully cause a disturbance. I underscored that Mosi was a gentlemen and would not dream of causing a disturbance during an event for an organization he held in the highest regard. Keep in mind Mosi was and still is, although he is wavering, a true Olympic fan. He sang the Olympic anthem for fifteen years and was still confident, although not as strongly, that if Rogge heard his story he would tell VANOC to back off. Mosi truly is a nice guy. He treats people fairly and with respect, and he expects everyone to do the same.
Mosi felt extremely nervous and agitated at this point in the battle and was liter-ally losing sleep. If it wasn’t for his pride and the support of everyone around him he might have sold his restaurant. He mentioned it a couple of times and I told him if he did it would look like he was running. I also reminded him that if he managed the situation properly it was impossible for him to lose, no matter what a judge said. I believe very strongly he is being strong-armed, and the public knows it too. I was also up front with him and told him many times there was a distinct possibility that if it went to court the judge might rule against him; but if he had support from the public he could set up shop anywhere in town and patrons would flock. In fact it might be the best thing to happen to have the crap kicked out of him in court. It would clearly illustrate how cold and greedy Olympic organizations are, and cement an even stronger bond with more of Mosi’s supporters. This too, was also John Fur-long’s fear, which is why he soon learned to move more cautiously.
If VANOC and the IOC pushed it I was mainly concerned for Mosi’s short-term stress and not necessarily the overall outcome. I felt a strong responsibility to help Mosi through it emotionally, and was concerned because if he faltered the whole campaign could crumble. Mosi had to stay clear-headed and understand completely what he was up against. One of the hardest things for me to do was convince him the Olympics were not what he thought them to be. I had to shoot down his fantasy, but still keep him positive. It wasn’t long before Mosi started to feel very strong. He eventually told me he would fight to the end even if it meant losing the restaurant and his house. When he said that my level of anxiety over his personal welfare shot up considerably. I was already completely committed to his cause, but now even more concerned for him, his livelihood, and his family.
During the press conference Mosi read a statement I prepared that affirmed he would not cause a disturbance during the Rogge event that was about to take place in the ballroom a floor above. He briefly explained to the press pack that he asked John Furlong to set up a meeting with Rogge, but Furlong ignored the request. Consequently, if the mountain would not come to him, Mosi would go to the mountain in order to explain his side of the story. All the while there were protests in the streets outside the hotel with angry residents marching up and down the sidewalk yelling for VANOC and the IOC to pay more attention to environmental issues regarding the Eagleridge Bluffs section of the Sea to Sky.
We left the press conference and tried to make our way through the huge crowd to the ballroom. On the way we ran into Rogge’s Olympic entourage. Reporters told Mosi that Rogge was standing just across the wide foyer and suggested that now might be an opportune time to introduce himself. Cameras were rolling and journalists were hovering everywhere in anticipation of a confrontation. My intuition told me it wasn’t a good idea, but the opportunity presented itself, and as long as we could do it with little fuss it might work. Unfortunately the security phalanx surrounding the Olympic entourage was impenetrable. A few moments after our request to speak with Rogge we were physically intimidated. At one point I was chest-bumped by a plainclothes security officer, and ordered to leave immediately. They got physical very fast and I instantaneously understood why peaceful protestors in Olympic regions often felt violated. I was in a suit and tie, politely asking for an opportunity to speak with a man who stood only ten feet away. Rogge was just standing there, chatting casually and waiting for the procession into the ballroom to start.
Everyone’s antennae perked up. We decided to move into the ballroom and take our seats. Mosi’s eyes were wide as saucers and I had a definite new edge of awareness. As we approached the ballroom the noise level increased to a fevered pitch. One thousand excited Vancouver and Whistler business-sorts jabbered away in anticipation. Television cameras and reporters followed Mosi to his seat and re-corded footage of him sitting down and meeting people at his table. Almost every-one at the table knew him by reputation and they were excited to meet him. They had all read about or saw him in many news broadcasts over the previous months. Even though his presence disrupted the table, everyone was very cordial and supportive.
The reason we held the press conference was to avoid this type of disturbance. Managers of the event asked us to do something about the media surrounding our table, but at this point I figured we were in their ballroom and it was their responsibility to ask media to leave. I was also still ticked at Rogge for ignoring us a few minutes earlier, and at the uncalled for aggression by security. We were the only table in a room of 1,000 people that had television lights trained on it, and I was about to make the most of it. Not even Rogge who was sitting only a few tables away attracted so much pre-show attention.
Every time Mosi moved his chair, media zoomed in to see what he was doing. If he took a drink of water, they recorded it. When his food arrived they captured the moment. The fun really began when I asked for a question card and passed it to Mosi to fill out. I could see cameras approaching fast so I quickly whispered the question he should ask and gave him a pen. The question would go to the head table and hopefully be read at the end of the speeches. With lights blazing the cameras literally came to within a foot of Mosi’s hand as I whispered to him again, “Mr. Rogge, could you please tell me what you are doing for small business in Vancouver? Mosi Alvand, Olympia Restaurant” Mosi’s hand was shaking so hard he could barely write.
Earlier in the day I met with the coordinator of the event to assure her we would not cause a disturbance. The woman was completely stressed that we would turn what she referred to as ‘her event’ into a shambles. Once again I repeated that Mosi was a gentlemen and he wouldn’t dream of causing a problem. When I spoke to her the night before she had no idea who Mosi was, even though I told her. Apparently she thought I was just calling to make sure everything went smoothly for a non-descript, Olympic-type, hanger on. When she arrived at the ballroom the next morning her assistants must have filled her in because when I checked the seats I asked her to reserve for us they were located in the far back corner of the room. I’m not sure where her head was because when we spoke the night before I made a point to tell her I set up a press conference in the same hotel immediately preceding ‘her’ event specifically so we wouldn’t cause a disturbance. Board of Trade events don’t offer reserved seats so if you want a good vantage you have to come in early and hold your space. It was physically impossible for us to do, plus it would have been ridiculous to sit there for an hour with media circling. It apparently didn’t sink in to her who we were until the morning of the event, and when it registered she probably panicked and put us at the back of the room. I predicted something like this might happen, but when I checked and saw the seats she reserved, my pleasant demeanor quickly evaporated. I cautioned her that if she didn’t move our seats immediately, and to a table I specified, I would have second thoughts about turning ‘her event’ into a media circus. She complied and stayed clear of me except for the one time during the media melee when she sent a helper over to ask us to control the media. When I chose our seats I hoped media would hover at least intermittently around our table, so I made sure to pick two seats that had the head table as a backdrop. That way, when cameras captured Mosi’s face, Rogge could easily be positioned in the background.
The only reason I eventually asked the media to give us a break was because they were blocking the view of people behind our table. After I was sure the head table saw the commotion in our area, and I casually locked eyes with Rogge, I asked media to be as discreet as possible. They politely withdrew to the back of the room and only rallied when they sensed something was about to happen. We tried very hard not to move abruptly, or even scratch our noses. Half way through the meal Mosi slipped out without me noticing. When he came back he was a bit shaken and I asked what happened. Media followed him to the bathroom. He didn’t venture too far on his own for the rest of the afternoon.
At the end of the event while the head table filed past us, Mosi tried in vain to attract Rogge’s attention, but he was surrounded by security. Rogge and the procession of dignitaries moved through the crowd rather quickly to a Green Room and then into a press conference. We went to the press conference room and asked to be admitted, but VANOC security refused. They insisted it was only for media and we weren’t welcome. Members of the media interviewed us outside the door, and it was obvious ‘they’ were going to cause a stir. So VANOC relented and told us we could stand at the door and observe. Members of the media offered us their press credentials so we could enter, but we declined feeling satisfied that we would at least get to observe what was happening from the doorway in the rear of the room. We had no intention of becoming part of the press conference. We were only waiting for an opportune moment to speak with Rogge. Media were eager to see Mosi confront Rogge, and they kept us apprised of his whereabouts. When the press conference began, two burly, plainclothes security guards stepped in front of Mosi and blocked his view. When I complained, they sneered. At this point the press conference was in full swing and VANOC officials were at the front of the room and out of our line of sight. There was no one to assist us. When I finally caught the attention of one of the VANOC reps and told them they reneged on their promise to let Mosi watch, they ignored me and said they had no control over where security stood. For the rest of the hour we were forced to play a childish game with security by continuously shift-ing positions. This caused them to constantly turn and monitor us.
In spite of the human barricade we got to hear Ted Chernecki from Global TV ask a question on Mosi’s behalf. Before the press conference Chernecki said he would ask a question of Rogge for Mosi regarding what Rogge thought about the Olympia restaurant situation. He did so, and Mosi heard the question and the answer. Rogge basically said that if he allowed one business to do it he would have to let all businesses do it. This meant he wasn’t prepared to hear, or even consider, Mosi’s extenuating circumstance. Rogge expressed zero concern for the impact his Games were having on local businesses. As the conference wound up, media outside the press conference moved away from us. We followed them to a back hallway where they knew Rogge would exit, but once again he was surrounded by VANOC execs, plainclothes officers, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police in red tunics. Mosi was tentative, but incredibly patient and we followed Rogge and his protective entourage back down the hall from whence we came.
Rogge disappeared into the men’s room and everyone outside of it began milling around. I noticed some of the plainclothes police officers leave. We were waiting in the far back corner of the room and I could sense an opportunity was about to present itself. I nodded to two of the media nearest to us and asked them to make sure their cameras and recorders were rolling, but not to turn on their lights until the last minute. At this point everyone had given up on Mosi and Rogge meeting, security included. I quickly escorted Mosi towards the washroom’s exit door. As we walked I told Mosi to introduce himself and invite Rogge to his restaurant. Mosi exclaimed, “What!” I repeated, “Invite him to the Olympia.” Rogge and Furlong were not being respectful to Mosi and they refused to give him a few moments so I decided the only recourse was to put Rogge on a bit of a spot. Rogge was well briefed about Mosi’s situation and had a pat answer ready, so I knew that asking him a question from left field would throw him. I also knew he would decline, and hoped media would build on it. Rogge walked out, Mosi introduced himself, shook Rogge’s wet hand (supposedly from washing it), and invited Rogge to the Olympia while the cameras and recorders caught it. Perfect execution.
‘Rogge refuses to meet with, and then turns down an invitation from a local restaurateur caught in a squeeze play between the IOC and VANOC. Furlong shirks responsibility and Rogge is too busy for the little guy.’
It’s exactly what Mosi should tell a judge if the case ever goes to court. ‘Mosi tried but Rogge refused to even listen to his side of the story.’
Other than the obvious media attention, you might be wondering why it was so important for Mosi to meet with Rogge. Well, here’s why … Furlong issued a statement to media insisting that if it was up to him there wouldn’t be a problem with the Olympia signs on Mosi’s restaurant. Furlong was trying to position himself as a victim caught between the IOC and the Olympia. My position was that if Furlong didn’t have the skills to manage the challenge properly then he should at least introduce us to the person who could. We never went over Furlong’s head until he tried to weasel his way out of it by blaming someone else. Furlong was trying to crush Mosi and also win the community over in one move. In historic Olympic fashion Furlong wanted everything. We weren’t about to give it to him, but he was going to get more than he bargained for.
Part of my overall strategy with Mosi was to elicit support from small and midsize businesses in the Vancouver region. I knew it would be worthwhile because ninety-eight percent of the businesses in the Vancouver region are small and midsize. We had a captive audience. Not only did I send out regular press releases outlining the plight of the Olympia to media, I also initially sent newsletters that included Mosi’s story to over five thousand small and midsize businesses in the area, and eventually to almost double that number every month. In total, almost one hundred thousand newsletters went out over the course of a year. Business owners and man-agers everywhere from across B.C., to Alberta and to Seattle, Washington wanted to know more. I wanted them to know exactly what was happening and to keep them in the loop so they could see exactly how Olympic organizations operate. Once they did, they could make up their own minds. Their support for Mosi was overwhelming.
VANOC continued to award sponsorships to half a dozen other companies during this fiasco. Each time another multi-million dollar sponsor signed up it proved beyond a doubt the Olympia restaurant did absolutely nothing to negatively impact VANOC’s ability to raise money in the region. In fact, for ten years the Olympia restaurant was the only voice in the region that kept the good name of the Olympics alive amidst constant controversies like doping, IOC member bribery, and cheating judges. The Olympia restaurant represented the good side of the Olympics and the true spirit of the Games, but greedy Olympic organizations still wanted to kick it to the curb. How’s that for gratitude? At the time of this writing the battle between the small restaurant and the big corporation is simmering. While Mosi and his partners ward off a team of Olympic lawyers, they continue to work hard serving up incredible pizza and souvlaki from their little shop on Denman Street. Go to www.998Denman.com for the latest news.
The epilogue: As we walked through the hotel alone after meeting Rogge I asked Mosi how he felt. He turned to me, smiled, and said, "I feel great! I just met an incredible person – the president of the IOC. He’s trying to ruin my business, but I just shook the hand of the most powerful man in the Olympics."
I was stunned. Mosi is a genuine sweetheart and holds no grudges. A hero for standing up for what he knows is right, even in the face of adversity.
The IOC and local Olympic committees are subjected to literally thousands of protest groups. They are experts at deflecting and diffusing issues and have a large battery of public relations teams and lawyers to intimidate and keep community groups at bay.
Mosi and the Olympia restaurant are different than all the rest. Other groups represent the community at large and protest a number of important issues like low-income housing, environmental damage, manipulation of workers, etc. But Mosi is much different because except for the moral support of thousands of citizens from around the world, he stands alone in his fight against the big box machine. It is only Mosi and his partners fighting the powerful Olympic team. They have no money to defend against the big corporation. The Olympia is a small restaurant that sells pizza and souvlaki in Vancouver’s West End. It is independently owned and operated. It is not a franchise. Mosi occasionally makes local deliveries personally and is salt of the earth.
There are a number of reasons why Mosi and his partners have been able to fend off the giant. The first and most important reason is that they are morally right. They were there first. If Olympic organizations had a problem with the Olympia they should have said something at least five years ago. The Olympia restaurant is on Denman Street, one of Vancouver’s most popular and historic thoroughfares and oldest neighborhoods. It is in the West End, which is also the most densely populated neighborhood in all of Canada. It’s not like Olympic organizations could have missed him. Instead Olympic organization timed their attack when they thought they would have the community on their side. They waited until local news was filled with rumors of big companies making pitches to sponsor the 2010 Olympics. Public sentiment and expectations were high, especially after watching Athens crash and burn under a $12 billion debt load the summer before. The Vancouver public was becoming concerned the same would happen to them.
The IOC works hard trying to convince cities it is the fault of the local community when Olympic events cause financial hardship. They never take responsibility when in fact they should, because the IOC has been doing it long enough to know all the pitfalls. They are so unorganized, and as we’ve seen in Salt Lake City, caught up in corruption, it is next to impossible for them to assist local communities because they too struggle to maintain control of a runaway train. The biggest fallacy regarding the Olympics is that it is a financially equitable event for local communities, when in fact it is not. The IOC, with the help of politicians and media successfully sold this myth for decades.
The second reason Mosi and his partners have been able to hold back Olympic organizations, is because Mosi has the support of the community. He didn’t ask for it. They came to his aid. A customer started the paper petition. She wrote the copy for it and printed the huge sheets of paper so he could display it in the restaurant. It was a bonafide grassroots overnight explosion. For months before the controversy I walked by the Olympia many times and often wondered why VANOC had not yet approached the owners to work something out. It never occurred to me they were biding their time to strike when they thought they had the community on their side and when they could inflict the most embarrassment possible on the owners. They didn’t want a resolution. They wanted to crush him. They completely underestimated how much Mosi was loved by everyone in the neighborhood. They thought they could intimidate and steamroll over him like other local Olympic committees have done to thousands of small business owners in the past. They never gave it a second thought. They were so arrogant they considered it a foregone conclusion that he would fold like the thousands before him. They never counted on the community rallying around Mosi and the Olympia.
It wasn’t as if the community easily rallied around just anyone. A number of businesses in the region were also put upon by threats from Olympic lawyers, and they were summarily kicked to the street without even a peep from the community. They were perceived to be opportunists who didn’t deserve to trade on the Olympic property. The media tried to make an issue and gain public favor for of a few of them, but the public never picked up the bait. In Mosi’s case however, his customers loved him and thought he was right. While Mosi was doing a television interview outside his restaurant local residents walked and drove by yelling at the camera. They knew what was going on and without being asked they shouted down the Olympic organization as they walked by. They told VANOC to back off and leave the small guy alone. Mosi was there first. People were yelling from their cars while waiting for the traffic light. One elderly lady jumped right into the middle of the interview to tear a piece off VANOC. She was totally disgusted by Olympic greed. Thousands and thousands of people signed the petition in the restaurant and online, and they still sign it today. Mosi was transformed overnight into a reluctant, but local hero, and all he was trying to do was save his livelihood and protect his family.
I never maneuvered media regarding Mosi and the Olympia. All I did was en-sure he had an opportunity to get his message out to the most people possible. Mosi did all the hard work. I simply held the flashlight for him in the dark.
Another reason Mosi has been able to hold off the powerful Olympic organization is because he stuck to his story and told the truth. He believed in himself and what he and his partners were doing. A few times he wavered privately and wanted to give up, but it was only because Olympic organizations are so incredibly intimidating. They would scare you too.
The Olympia is able to push back so strongly against VANOC and the IOC be-cause the Olympia owners managed public relations and media management properly right from the beginning. I waited patiently for a long time, and as soon as I heard the Olympia was under attack I stepped forward to offer Mosi my help. I had plenty of opportunity to think about his situation and prepare, but I never met the man except while eating at his restaurant. (The roast lamb is my favorite.) I had no idea what he was going to do when Olympic organizations approached him. But I did know through extensive research that when Olympic organizations approached the restaurant they would hit hard. It is their modus operandi and they are well rehearsed in their process.
John Furlong didn’t want to be perceived as the bad guy, so instead of VANOC making the initial hit, they waited until Furlong was out of the country, and then the Canadian Olympic Committee fired the first volley. They sent a nasty cease and desist letter threatening to take action if the Olympia sign wasn’t removed. It kept VANOC and Furlong out of the direct line of fire. Furlong eventually responded to say they did it without his consent or knowledge. He said if it had been up to him he would have done it differently. He effectively removed himself from the line of fire in case it backfired – which it did. He did not want to look like a bad guy in the community. Let someone else do the dirty work. He should be a politician.
As soon as I heard about the letter I called and spoke with Mosi and gave him on-the-fly media training. The following is a short instruction sheet I gave him. He had no idea what he was about to get into, and honestly I didn’t know exactly either. I had a good idea what the Olympic organizations would do, but I didn’t know how Mosi would react. I was hoping he would not fold under the pressure. Here are the media instructions I gave him on our very first meeting.
Never say ‘No Comment’
Answer only what they ask
Do not ramble
Acknowledge there may be a difference of opinion and you are going to remedy it the best way you know how.
DO NOT GUESS at what you think will happen – don't give media ammunition to bury you.
If you feel it’s a legal question tell them you’re not qualified to offer a legal opinion.
Media will tell your story if you are clear and don’t confuse the issue, so keep it simple and keep repeating the same message over and over to all media.