Organizers of the Vancouver Olympics are expecting a huge increase in the amount of counterfeit merchandise hitting store shelves in the months before the Games.

“We expect an escalation,” said Bill Cooper, VANOC’s director of commercial rights.

Vancouver 2010 hopes to make $500 million from the sale of Olympic merchandise, and Cooper said losses from counterfeit goods — everything from T-shirts to maple syrup to plush Sasquatches — represent “a significant piece of our revenue target.”

He would not, however, say how much cash VANOC stands to lose.

Cooper, who was standing in front of a pile of wrinkled fake Olympic T-shirts that were seized from Liquidation World, said the majority of counterfeit merchandise would be apparel.

VANOC, he added, will ramp up surveillance across the country and scrutiny of fraudulent goods in the leadup to the Games.

He said the surveillance is not huge in terms of dollars, as private investigators are shared between VANOC and other rights holders like Nike and Parks Canada.

He said VANOC’s priority is getting the fake goods off shelves and protecting licensed retailers, not necessarily finding the source of the fake goods.

“There is a wide variety and there is a significant portion of production that is likely taking place offshore.”

What to look for

• Consumers who want genuine goods should look for a hangtag with a hologram and a sewn-in label.

• VANOC recently changed its official merchandise hologram to prepare for a surge of purchases.