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Olympic torch plans restrict free speech: civil liberties group

VANCOUVER - The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says VANOC is advising Olympic torch relay communities to deny citizens their freedom of speech.

A VANOC manual obtained under Freedom of Information shows examples of signage and activities that would be of "high concern" to the Games and torch relay organizer.

VANOC, for example, disapproves of political candidates distributing campaign literature on the relay route.

"I don't know how they think they can legitimately restrict political speech around the torch run," said BCCLA executive director David Eby.

He said VANOC's only interest is protecting its sponsors.

"They don't particularly have an interest or concern in free speech rights of members of the community hosting the Olympic torch relay," Eby said yesterday.

Exec carried torch for Victoria

Victoria had high-ranking help to become first with the Olympic flame.

Greater Victoria Spirit Committee minutes obtained under Freedom of Information show 2010 Legacies Now's Spirit of B.C. director Allen Langdon said June 9, 2008 that Victoria was "high on the radar" for major Games-related activities and increased funding. The minutes also mentioned an "Olympic related event (time TBA - likely fall 2009)."

The July 16, 2008 minutes listed Sept. 19, 2008 for "VANOC bid presentation (made by Dan Doyle for Victoria)."

Victoria-resident Doyle is VANOC's executive vice-president of construction and the bid was to host the the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics' cross-Canada torch relay. Doyle discussed the bid secretly July 21, 2008 at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

The Victoria bid book estimated a $1,433,500 celebration, but the committee's Oct. 8, 2008 draft budget was a more modest $765,000.

On Nov. 21, 2008, VANOC announced Mile 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway in Victoria as the start point.

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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