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VANOC's motorcoach madness down south

The owner of a Fort Worth, Texas bus company is fuming because negotiations between VANOC and Olympic bus contractor Gameday Management keep stalling. “We were supposed to have been paid in-full April 15,” said Cowtown Charters’ Bill Pippin, who said he is owed $135,000 after sending 13 buses, 26 drivers and a mechanic to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“It makes me wish I never sent a bus up to Canada or even thought about it,” Pippin said Friday. “We went up there to help them make their event a success; of course we went up to make a couple of bucks too.”

Pippin said problems began last fall when short-staffed VANOC was struggling to handle driver and vehicle documentation. At Games-time, drivers were put three-to-a-hotel room, assigned longer shifts and shorter rest periods than allowed, served cold, stale food and supplied one bottle of water per shift. Pippin said Canada Revenue Agency now wants to hold back half of what’s owing.

Pippin is not alone. Another owner, who asked not to be identified, is worried his company may be idled because he said it is owed more than $1 million.

“To go out of business because of delivering our services to the Vancouver Olympics and not being paid would be horrible,” said the owner.

San Francisco’s El Camino Trailways, which was also part of the Olympic Bus Network, sought bankruptcy protection in June. CEO Kumar Shah did not return a 24 hours’ phone call.

Gameday president Tony Vitrano said VANOC is disputing amounts owing. “We all feel that this should be closed out by now,” Vitrano said.

VANOC budgeted $52.3 million for bus systems. In May, chief financial officer John McLaughlin called the Gameday contract “one of our biggest, most complicated.”

“It would be inappropriate to discuss in the media specifics of the ongoing reconciliation,” said VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade. “Suffice to say, we are working hard at it.”

Nineteen Canadian carriers received their final payments directly from VANOC in late June.

VANOC is desperate to balance its budget after the Canadian and British Columbia governments and International Olympic Committee combined for a $100 million pre-Games bailout because of the recession.

Bob Mackin reports on 2010 Olympics fallout for 24 Hours.

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