Friday, March 03, 2006

Turin shows how easy it is to blow Olympic business opportunities

VICTORIA - So have you booked your holiday to Turin yet? Made plans to invest there, or buy a villa and start a new life?
Those are important questions for B.C. The 2010 Olympics are supposed to make people flock here, and companies open businesses.
So the Turin Games should have stirred some of the same interest from you.
After all, the justification for spending some $1.5 billion in taxpayers’ money to put on the 2010 Olympics is that there will be a lasting economic benefits. They should make people want to visit, or choose Vancouver as their next corporate office.
The Games themselves will likely be a wonderful experience for people in Vancouver and Whistler, and leave a legacy of sports facilities and Lower Mainland transportation improvements.
But they are ultimately money-losers.
Vancouver organizers point to indirect benefits - from increased tourism to investment - that they say will be worth $6 billion to $10 billion. A government study predicted that the Olympics could bring an increase of $2 billion to $3.3 billion in tourism revenues over seven years. That’s an average four-per-cent increase over current levels, large but consistent with Calgary’s experience.
Auditor General Wayne Strelioff looked at all those projections, and said they seemed reasonable. But he added a warning, quoting consultants who did the review.
"These benefits will not materialize automatically," they said. "They must be earned by a focused, adequately funded and skillfully executed marketing program."
The Turin Games reinforce that warning. Everything went well. But there was little evidence - at least from here - that Italy, or the region, was seizing on the marketing opportunity.
Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen agrees. “I don’t believe Italy is going to benefit as much as they could,” he says. One of the jobs of the Olympics Secretariat, part of his ministry, is to make sure B.C. gets the maximum long-term value from the Games.
But it’s not easy. The effort will take co-ordination, a clear strategy and money.
And time is already getting tight, given the size of the task.
Start with the most basic questions. What message does B.C. want to send, and who are the main target audiences?
The controversy over Vancouver’s share of the closing ceremonies in Turin shows how tricky this can be. The classic - or cliched - images of ice-fishing and snowmobiles sent a message. But they reinforced existing stereotypes, rather than reaching out to new markets.
Hansen says the government is looking at a brand statement for B.C. for the Games. The existing tourism brand - Super, Natural BC - remains a starting point. But Hansen says the province’s cosmopolitan, modern cities and the diverse population need to be part of the message.
Those are the values - along with the Pacific location - that can attract not just tourists, but European investors or Asian companies looking for a new North American branch office.
Crafting the message is only the first part of the challenge. The second is finding ways to get it out.
Some will be narrowly targeted. “The Olympic Games have become a bit of a meeting place for the world’s business community,” Hansen says, not just the sponsors but other companies who see a chance to reward customers or do business.
And B.C. learned in Turin, with its log house and Mounties, that thousands of journalists all looking for easy, interesting stories are a great opportunity.
There’s still a lot to be done, and not a lot of money to do it with. The government doubled Tourism BC’s budget in 2004, to $50 million, but isn’t planning any extra money to seize the opportunities the Games provide. The Olympics’ Secretariat has a relatively modest budget, and is focused on immediate issues.
Hansen says the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity won’t be missed. “In 2011, I don’t want to be saying to myself if only we had done ‘X,’” he says.
But Turin shows how easily the chance for long-term gains can be lost.
Footnote: The other major - and very difficult challenge - is ensuring the Games benefits flow beyond the Lower Mainland. The government can’t afford to blur its main message, but there needs to be a clear strategy to ensure communities from Terrace to Trail share in the benefits of Games that they are paying for. And a scoreboard, or new seats at a playing field, aren’t enough.


Anonymous said...

If the best they can come up with is a guy ice fishing we are in trouble.
From what I read the 7 minutes that cost so much was pretty tacky. and they only had 72 people from the team in the taxpayers pockets. The folks who run these things are far more interested in making money for some companies building stuff than for the youth who put their lives on hold for years to get to compete.

Anonymous said...

It is already looking like this will be the business Olympics . To the lower mainland the spoils while the rest of the Province Rots

Anonymous said...

I put in a bid on e-Bay for a piece of the shroud that was guaranteed as genuine. I hear that business is now going great guns.