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'Not my job to crunch numbers,' Vancouver mayor says as expert questions FIFA's economic benefit

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With two years to go until FIFA World Cup 2026 matches kickoff at BC Place, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim spoke to the Surrey Board of Trade about his anticipation of regional economic benefits from hosting the world’s largest sporting event.

"FIFA is bigger than anything that we've seen in our city. We're getting the equivalent of 30 to 40 Superbowls,” Sim said as he estimated total international viewership for the seven matches in Vancouver at over two billion.

He believes that international exposure will translate into increased tourism numbers for years to come.

Sim also said he expects the private sector will see things the same way and build more hotels to accommodate more tourism in Metro Vancouver.

"We can actually support more conventions because we'll have more infrastructure now,” he told the Surrey Board of Trade. “And it's going to spill throughout the whole region. So that's just one example of how amazing it's going to be."

Not everyone agrees that taxpayers will see a net benefit from hosting the World Cup.

Moshe Lander, an economist at Concordia University who studies the economic impact of major international sporting events, says history has shown the opposite to be true.

“There are not long-term economic benefits so whatever it is he is saying is for one of three reasons,” Lander said about Sim’s optimism. “One, he generally believes it, which is a real problem. Two, because FIFA wants him to believe it, which is also a problem. Or three, because he is failing to take into account the actual costs that come with hosting.”

The latest estimated cost to taxpayers for hosting matches at BC Place is between $483 million and $581-million – double the original estimate released in 2022.

"It is really a two-week party, and there's nothing wrong with that if taxpayers want to pay for it,” said Lander.

Sim acknowledges his projections for the economic benefits of hosting the games are not based on hard data but said he sees things differently than Lander.

“I’m an FCPA, former investment banker and private equity guy and a business person. And I’ll respectfully disagree,” Sim said.

He went on to say he based his projections off his professional background and how he feels.

“It's not my job to crunch numbers on these things,” he said when asked to clarify that his projections for long-term economic impacts are based off a feeling and not data.

Two years out, the final cost of hosting the World Cup matches could still be in flux – and the financial benefits remain hard to measure.

  

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