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Remember Olympics values, not new bylaws: Mayor

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson sounded weary with the Olympics bylaw controversy just hours before he boarded a plane for the torch lighting ceremony in Greece.

“The core traditions of the Olympics are very powerful,” he said. “And we lose sight of that with all the corporate sponsorship, Olympic bylaws and the gigantic scale of the event.”

The mayor will be in the ancient Temple of Hera tomorrow. He’ll see costumed priestesses light the Olympic flame with a parabolic mirror. It’ll mark the final countdown to the 2010 Games.

Robertson’s comments came on the heels of a city news release promising to amend a contentious bylaw package passed last July. Critics such as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association complained vague wording could open the door for broad free speech restrictions.

Earlier this month, the civil liberties watchdog endorsed a B.C. Supreme Court challenge to the bylaws. It was filed by anti-Olympics critics Chris Shaw and Alissa Westergard-Thorpe. The BCCLA argued the city is proposing bylaw amendments now so it won’t have to face a showdown in court.

Meanwhile, Mayor Robertson promised yesterday that the legislation will be used to restrict and punish ambush marketing – not Games-time protest.

“"We've made it clear from the beginning that respect for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was our top priority,” he said in the city news release.

When the final version of the bylaws is approved in November, city officials say it will clearly spell out what kind of signage is allowed, and what isn’t.

“Strengthening clarification in bylaws to ensure that commercial advertising, not political expression, is the objective of new amendments,” reads the release.

VANOC has an operating budget of $1.76 billion, which relies on nearly $1 billion in corporate sponsorship revenue. Vancouver promised to protect the rights of sponsors when it was awarded the Olympics in 2003.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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