July 27, 2012
Photographer loses Olympic job to Harper stafferJournalist considers legal action against Canadian Olympic Committee
By Mark Daniell, QMI Agency
It should have been an opportunity of a lifetime.
QMI Agency contributing photographer Chris Roussakis was supposed to be in London as one of the official photographers for the Canadian Olympic Committee. Instead, he was left behind at the last minute, replaced by Jason Ransom, the photographer for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Roussakis, who is considering legal action against the COC, has now been forced to watch the Games from the sidelines, missing out on what would have been the biggest break in his career.
“Earlier this year, I received a call from (COC director of communications) Dimitri Soudas asking me if I was interested in the job,” Roussakis said by phone from Ottawa. “All they wanted was my portfolio and they were happy with that.”
Shortly after, Roussakis spent part of March in London preparing to cover the Games.
“It was work...the (COC) is really big on having their people be as prepared as possible.”
The COC also sent the 24-year-old photographer to Montreal in late April to continue his training to cover the Olympics.
As he continued to work in the Ottawa area, Roussakis was in constant contact with the COC.
“We had conference calls up until early June,” he said.
On June 20, Roussakis said he met with Soudas at Sparks Street Mall where he was told he had been dropped as a COC photographer.
“They told me that my references didn’t check out,” Roussakis said. “I don’t know what references they wanted... they had just asked for my portfolio when we first spoke.”
Roussakis has since learned that the photographer who took his spot on the team, Jason Ransom, is a member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's staff.
Ransom has taken a leave of absence from Harper’s staff and cleared the job with the ethics commissioner.
In an e-mail to QMI Agency, the director of communications for the Prime Minister's Office said Ransom hasn’t done anything wrong.
“Jason has taken a leave of absence from our office and has advised the office of the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner of his arrangements,” said Andrew McDougall.
“Everything has been done by the book.”
Soudas, a former director of communications for the PMO himself, would not address Roussakis’ claim that he was promised the job.
“We're focused on the Games and our athletes as the opening ceremonies are moments away,” Soudas wrote QMI Agency in an e-mail.
Roussakis’ only recourse now is to try and recoup the money he would have made as part of the COC contingent.
"I’m looking to reclaim the contract I had with them... I’m out a lot right now."
But it is the lost opportunity that has hurt the most.
“I don’t know why (Ransom) was given the job... but shooting the Olympics is most photojournalists' dream job... It’s something you can say on your resume.
“Still, I’m confident my skills will take me there at some point... Sochi is two years away.”