Olympics cost Vancouver half a billion dollars
Hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games cost Vancouver only slightly less than it takes to run the city itself for an entire year.
A report going before city council next week estimates the city spent $729.2 million on infrastructure and operations to host the world for the 27 days of the Games.
It recouped $174.9 million of it from the provincial and the federal governments, leaving a bill of $554.3 million.
That doesn't include the cost of taking over the $1-billion Olympic athletes village project after the primary financier balked.
"It is a lot of money," conceded city Coun. Geoff Meggs.
"It's more than I think some taxpayers will expect to see, but on the other side there are some very, very long-term and important legacies."
The lion's share of the expenses were for infrastructure.
The city spent $73.8 million on competition venues, including $12.8 million to convert the curling venue into a community centre with a pool.
An estimated $120.9 million was spent on non-competition venues, like an Olympic street car demonstration line, road repairs and the renovation of theatres.
The biggest chunk was for civic infrastructure at the Olympic village site. The city spent an estimated $299.8 million there, including on a waterfront park, a community centre, a heritage facility and 252 units of social housing that are supposed to be part of the project.
The report is the first time city officials have laid out the overall cost of the Games.
Meggs said the haphazard nature of Olympic accounting in the past means there's no way to know whether Vancouver spent more or less than planned.
"If a budget had been developed at this level, perhaps voters would have been fine with it," he said.
The city's overall operational budget for 2010 was $961 million, which included a 2.26 per cent tax hike and cuts across the board.
Those cuts include the Bloedel Conservatory, which the city refused to give the local park board enough money to save.
The park board doesn't have the $2 million it needs for a new roof at the facility, in part because they had to find millions to cover cost overruns on the Olympic venues under their control.
Had their been stricter controls in the early days of Olympic construction, Meggs said, maybe that wouldn't have happened.
"What it points to me is the city needs to have even stronger budget oversight," he said.
Olympic critic Chris Shaw applauded the city for releasing the numbers, noting that in past Games it's been difficult to figure out how much host cities spent, as so much of the costs are absorbed by higher levels of government.
The city of Salt Lake reported in a May 2002 council document that it only spent $10 million to host their Games.
So what Vancouver is claiming to have spent is an enormous amount of money, said Shaw.
"It's probably one of the most extraordinary costs I've ever heard of for a single city absorbing for the Games," he said.
Shaw said it was obvious that the Games would come at a cost to the city, but voters should have had known that cost a long time ago. Residents voted in a 2003 referendum on hosting the 2010 Games without that figure.
"Had the people of the city, when they went to the plebiscite, known that the city was going to be couching up $554.3 million . . . would they have still voted yes in the plebiscite?" said Shaw.
"Maybe in hindsight, with this number in hand and the happy party that happened downtown, maybe they would have said yes but we didn't have that information at the time."
Games organizers' final financial documents won't come until the fall. Their operational budget was $1.75 billion.
The federal government, whose share of the tab includes the $900-million security budget, is also still reviewing its numbers.
The provincial budget of $765 million is also being reviewed with updates that could come as early as the end of the month.
As part of their budget, the province gave Vancouver $6 million to help offset some of their operational costs for the Games, like increased demand for garbage pickup.
Overall, the city spent $61 million on everything from street banners to policing, and got about half of that back from other levels of government.
"There's one level of taxpayer," said Shaw.
"Pushing the money around under different shelves doesn't change the outcome for any of us."