Calculating the true costs of the 2010 Olympics
Published Monday, February 9, 2009 12:01PM PST
A year from now, B.C. will be making history. And as the 2010 Olympics countdown begins in Vancouver and Whistler, CTV is crunching a different sort of number: the true cost of the winter Games.
Is hosting the Olympic Games really worth the cost? It depends on who you ask. But whatever the price tag, the B.C. Government and many leading economists view the Games as a perfect stimulus during these tough times, with an expected $4 billion in direct economic benefits.
"Without exception, they are saying British Columbia's going to lead Canada in economic growth next year," Olympic Finance Minister Colin Hansen tells CTV, "and one of the primary reasons for that is we're hosting the Olympics."
As for determining the real cost of staging the winter extravaganza, that depends on who's crunching the numbers.
In June of 2006, Premier Gordon Campbell went on the record promising British Columbians "the cost of the Olympics is $600 million. That's what the fact of the matter is."
But B.C.'s Auditor General begged to differ in December, saying the province had failed to acknowledge $170 million in additional Olympic costs, continuing on to say "the full cost of staging the games should include a number of items that are not included in the official budget."
Those items include $47 million for the 2010 Secretariat, and $21 million for the pavilions in Turin and Beijing.
B.C. NDP Leader Carole James is concerned about the level of transparency.
"Once again, I think the public isn't being told what's really going on," she speculated. "They're concerned we could be left with a legacy of debt after the athletes go home."
And what about those mega-projects being driven by the concrete Olympic deadline?
Among them is the expanded Convention Centre that will act as the 2010 media facility. Its final cost has come in at roughly $880 million -- almost double the original budget.
Other projects raising eyebrows and pushing budgets include the $2 billion Canada Line, the Sea-to-Sky Highway upgrade, the major facelift of the B.C. Place Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held, and the financially troubled Athletes Village in downtown Vancouver.
The B.C. Government bristles at those being labeled "Olympic Projects", however. It's a touchy subject.
"I think it's time we just included every cost that people wanted," said Premier Gordon Campbell during an earlier question period. "And then people can decide if it's worthwhile or not."
While Olympic venues were for the most part built on time, they are not on budget. Currently ringing in at $580 million, construction costs are already $110 million over the original target.
And the ballooning security budget, which was originally $175 million, which is now updated to expectedly reach a whopping $1 billion.
"I think everybody knew that the $175 million was a bid budget" Olympic security team head Bud Mercer said when the new figure was revealed. "I don't think anybody expected that would be the budget."
The federal government says its 2010 investments total $655 million, but neither government includes the money crown corporations have contributed to be official sponsors, or the hit to municipal taxpayers in Olympic host cities.
Other, unaccounted for costs include the $300 million 'Olympic Bonus' that unionized B.C. government employees received for signing a four-year contract that ends after the Games. Furthermore, the province will be paying employees to 'volunteer' at the games, and there's no accounting for the cost of the education ministry developing an 'Olympic Curriculum'.
Add it all up, and British Columbia could be on the hook for nearly $6 billion -- and that's a lot more than taxpayers were originally told.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mike Killeen