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Sunday, February 22, 2009

vancouver's 2010 winter olympic elephant.

Having spent the last week in beautiful British Columbia (well, Burnaby and Vancouver), I’ve really come to appreciate the size of the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. At times, it felt as if I couldn’t walk a block in downtown Vancouver without seeing an Olympic logo, or a display of Quatchi, Miga, and Sumi peering through a storefront window or from a billboard perch. While it's exciting that British Colombians and Canadians are hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, I’m torn on how I feel about the games.

1) Is $6 billion for a one-time event a giant misuse of resources? The Olympics cost a lot of money, and with funding also coming from the Federal Government, it is clear that all Canadians will be paying a share of the Olympic sized-costs (including almost a billion dollars for security costs -- which equals the amount of Alberta's 2009 Budget Deficit). Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is also worried that Vancouver will be saddled with even more Olympic costs as the city struggles to deal with an increase in gang violence.

These kind of costs strengthen the argument for the creation of two permanent Olympic host cities that would host the games and infrastructure every four years (one each for the Winter and Summer games).

2) An Olympic-sized economic cocoon. There is a strong argument that the Olympic-related construction and investment in Vancouver has temporarily cocooned much of the Lower Mainland from the economic recession that has hit most of North America. Though this may be temporary, it’s hard to argue that the 2010 games aren’t providing a lot of people with jobs this year.

3) I actually enjoy the Winter Olympics. I offered some heavy criticism of the previous Olympic Games, but unlike the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, which were hosted in the free speech loving People's Republic of China (severe sarcasm alert!), cyber-dissidents like myself have yet to be rounded up for offering criticisms of our glorious governing leaders.

4) The politics of the Vancouver Olympics are fascinating. Depending on the results of the May 12, 2009 BC Provincial election, the Premier of British Columbia in 2010 could be a cheerleader or a critic of the Games. In the spirit of partisan maneuvering, BC Liberal Finance Minister Colin Hansen has already begun to point out the nightmares that may become a reality if NDP leader Carole James becomes Premier later this year. The games will be happening no matter who is sitting behind the Premier's desk, but it would surely be a lot less awkward if they were supportive.


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Chandler Kent said...

Six billion? That ought to work out to about $2 billion per gold if our athletes perform their ritual choke and fail to "own the podium." Cheap at twice the price, I say. After all, once the Olympics are over, Vancouver residents will be able to thrill to speed skating on a year round basis - that oughtta help relieve those boring Vancouver Friday nights. And, poor Whistlerites, reeling from the high cost of premium wines and spirits, will be able to replenish their depleted trust funds by renting their properties for exorbitant fees to Canadian cabinet ministers and IOC mucky-mucks. Everyone wins (except, of course, the Canadian athletes and the taxpayers who support them, though that support is miniscule in relation to real sporting countries)!

Anonymous said...

I think the Olympics will be a good thing for Vancouver, and for Canada. I'm looking forward to it.

I was suckered in this weekend while in Vancouver, and picked up some official 2010 merchandise. Oh well :)

Kyle Olsen said...

The six billion dollar figure covers alot of projects that would have been completed anyways, such as the Canada Line ($2 billion), the Sea to Sky upgrades (~$600 million) and an expanded convention centre ($870 million). That amount also covers private spending, including airport expansion ($400 million) and the Olympic Village ($1.1 billion) which arguably would have happend anyways aswell. (the Olympic Village is condos and will be cost recovered at around 65%, the rest pays for public amenities and ~ 250 social housing units).

All the venues have been covered by ticket and sponsorship sales.

Security costs are out of control no one can deny that, but to say the games cost $6 billion is disingenuous. That creates the impression that tax payers wrote a $6 billion dollar cheque and that that amount was diverted from other sources or could have been spent in other ways.

Security costs are the only amount that would not have been spent or do not pay for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is merely the cost of the Olympics that can be seen as a problem. The construction, and the games themselves have and will cause a major inconvenience to those living in the lower mainland. Not only does the construction make it difficult to get around, but the actual games themselves will force many of the city's inhabitants who don't appreciate hosting such an expensive show for three weeks to leave the city. Yes businesses will thrive for those three weeks, but does that really justify subjecting the residents of the greater Vancouver area to images, toys, and actual mascot sized Quatchis everywhere they go years leading up to the events?

Canadian Athletes already have prime training facilities in Calgary. Why couldn't we have hosted the Olympics where the facilities had already been built?

Anonymous said...

I am not a supporter of public funding of elite sports, but as things are moving forward on this, it does not make sense to CAUSE more public funidng to deal with those opposed to it. Get out of the way and make things better, don't be fools and stand in the way of the train - it's coming anyways!

Also, there will undoubtedly be a tremendous benefit when visitors eat, stay, buy things because those dollars do pay employees and provide tax dollars that can be used for the benefit of all the community.

There will always be some inconvenience to commuters - it may be road repairs, new roads, or a parade - so the argument about convenience is lame.

The 2010 Games are coming, get over it and find something else to be bitter about.

Stephen B

Anonymous said...

this event will be great for our city and I am looking forward for the world to come visit us!
Go Canada!