VANOC has started advertising for the 2010 Olympics on the six controversial Squamish-owned billboards around Metro Vancouver.

The organizing committee had made an agreement with the IOC to purchase all outdoor advertising space during the Games — including buses — in part to avoid ambush marketing from companies that aren’t sponsors.

The advertisements will last until the end of the Paralympic Games.

“This is billboard space we were required to buy,” said Renée Smith-Valade, a spokesperson for VANOC.

“The purpose is to provide practical public information as we lead up to the Games. That includes information about traffic (and) buying tickets.”

The electronic billboards have been controversial since they went up in early December, including at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge and along the Sea-to-Sky Highway.

Opponents argue they’re an eyesore and will distract drivers, but the Squamish Nation, which owns the signs, said they’ll bring in much-needed revenue.

No 2010 sponsors have bought space on the billboards yet, and the only ads right now are for the Games, the Squamish Nation and for Mel Gibson’s new movie, Edge Of Darkness.