Monday, January 12, 2009

How we stumbled into Olympic problems

First, the NDP government got all enthusiastic about a bid and launched the luge down the icy chute before anyone really thought much about whether we actualy wanted the Games, or why we should.
Second, no one paid too much attention because a) it was just a bid anyway; and b) the Games are a "good thing."
Third, governments got away with too much secrecy and silly claims, as in security costs will only be $175 million.
Fourth, effective oversight was ignored or eliminated. The auditor general's concerns were brushed aside; the public's representatives on the VANOC board reported to political masters.
Fifth, even people like I who raised issues, weren't nearly dogged enough.
Still, I repost a column from before the bid went in that suggests the warning signs were there for all to see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2002

Olympics' bid looking fiercely expensive

British Columbians should be getting mighty nervous about what the Vancouver-Whistler Olympic Games could cost us.
The 2010 Games could turn out to be a great thing for B.C., a chance to showcase the province before the world.
But the Olympic bid is steam-rolling forward without nearly enough public information or consultation on the costs and benefits.
The Olympic bid committee has already sent its proposal off to the IOC, a list of promises of all the things you will do to make these the best Games ever.
Sadly, you won't know what those promises are, the bid committee having decided they should stay secret. That seems a little odd, since Bern, Switzerland, one of B.C.'s top rivals, has posted its proposals on the web site for all to see. Bern also plans a referendum before going further, something citizens in Whistler have unsuccessfully been seeking.
There's much encouraging in B.C.'s Olympic bid. The Games are expected to be officially self-supporting, with revenue covering the operating costs and maybe leaving a little money over. And the province could well score future tourism business and some nice sports facilities.
But the self-supporting claim is misleading.
Organizers already have about $9 million from the province to help make the pitch to get the Games. Ottawa and B.C. have promised $310 million each for new facilities for sports events.
And on top of that, the federal and provincial governments are on the hook for security costs, easily $500 million if recent Games are an indication.
And there's more.
The Games bid requires an expanded convention centre, which would serve as the headquarters for some 10,000 journalists, and cost some $500 million.
There's a strong case for a new convention centre, but it's certainly not clear why those who will benefit - Vancouver hotels and restaurants - shouldn't pay the bill.
Bid chairman Jack Poole also says that without major improvements to the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler, Vancouver won't win the Games. Figure $1.3 billion for that. And proponents also want a rapid transit line from the airport, another $1.4-billion megaproject.
Add them up, and you'll see that those cost-free Games will really reach into taxpayers' pockets for $5.3 billion.
Of course there will be benefits, including an estimated $2 billion in tax revenue for the two levels of government. But that doesn't come close to the costs.
And that too would be fine if we had decided that the most important capital priorities for B.C. were a better highway to Whistler and rapid transit from the airport.
But we haven't made that decision. And I'm not sure that people bouncing over rutted roads in the northeast would be so keen to know that their tax dollars were being used to make it easier for people to get to their chalets in Whistler. Or that people in the North and Interior facing health care cuts would think that a better way of getting from the airport to downtown Vancouver should be a top priority.
The Olympic bid has crept up on British Columbians. Few people realize that a specific proposal has been submitted, or that in about a year B.C. could have actually won these Games.
That's partly our fault. The Games people have been out talking about their plans, but the public hasn't paid much attention.
But it's also the proponents' fault, for failing to provide enough information about exactly what this will cost and where the money will be found within the finances of a government that says it's too broke to provide a wide range of other services to citizens.
The Games may make sense. But right now, it feels like we're being asked to hand over a lot of money with no clear idea what we're getting, or why we should want it.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wasn't asked but when I voiced my opinion that we should look after our young , the poor and our seniors. I was pooh poohed. Hogwash we need ALL THESE CUTS BECAUSE THE NDP LEFT US WITH A SURPLUS and we have to make them look bad. Well the seniors are still being crapped on so are the young and the poor. This in what was an age of Campbell's soupy prosperity. It was all his doing not the world markets just like the 90's were the fault of the NDP not the world markets. The Olympics were an EGO trip for the Elite of the Lower Mainland. Mismanaged BC. Yes Betrayed BC yes . A Proud Vancouver Island Separatist

Gazetteer said...

Well Paul--

It looks you pretty well got 'em all...six or eight years ahead of the herd.

Well, except for that little matter of the Spec-U-Vestacular Village Boondoggle.

But who could have known way back then that the City of Vancouver would eventually bet the farm on Marble Counter Tops and German Fridges?

.

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