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VANOC wants respect for Olympic torch

Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics hope protesters will behave in a laid-back Canadian way and "respect” the Olympic torch relay when it begins Oct. 30 in Victoria.

"You’d have to be naive to think that we aren’t going to, from time-to-time along the route, see people express themselves," said VANOC CEO John Furlong. "That’s a Canadian tradition, it’s a value in this country and will always be one. But I do believe that what happens in Victoria will be extraordinary."

The flame will be lit Oct. 22 in Olympia, Greece and arrive in Victoria in a canister on a charter flight. A crowd of 50,000 people is expected at the Legislature lawn. Anti-Olympic protesters sympathetic with aboriginal and environmental causes have pledged to protest the start of the 45,000-kilometre tour of Canada that ends at the Feb. 12 opening ceremony in B.C. Place Stadium.

The relay will cap the busiest month since VANOC was established in September 2003.

Executives will attend the International Olympic Committee congress in Copenhagen at the start of the month. In mid-October, athletes' medals will be unveiled and so will the second phase of the transportation plan. Sensitive details of early-2010 road closures and neighbourhood impacts were supposed to be released during the summer.

“If you put information out too soon people forget, so we wanted to pick that sweet spot and we believe that starts in mid-October," said vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade.

Canadian delegates at the United Nations will present the Olympic truce on behalf of VANOC on Oct. 20 in New York.

The VANOC board met on a private teleconference Friday morning instead of the traditional closed-door, bi-monthly event that was planned for Wednesday. Chairman Jack Poole, who is battling cancer, was absent because of a medical appointment. None of the directors was involved in a post-meeting phone call with reporters.

Deputy CEO Dave Cobb, who is also executive vice-president of revenue, marketing and communication, said just $3.5 million remains in the revenue contingency. He declined to discuss terms of the International Olympic Committee’s late-August pledge to help resolve post-Games losses.

"What we told you is what we’re prepared to tell you," Cobb said. "This is off our list of things we worry about."

Cobb did not say how many free workers have been provided by private companies or governments since cash-strapped VANOC made a July 31 plea.

"We’re going to have, at the end of the day, into the hundreds of people from the corporate community that are loaned to us," he said.

Cobb said "several million dollars of out-of-home advertising" has been sold in recent weeks and the sales of the $285,000 deluxe ticket packages have resumed. He said there were two "immediate, on-the-spot sales" but didn’t name the buyers. The original sales target was 100, but only 25 sold by July.

"We’ve had very good signs in the last few weeks,” Cobb said.

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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