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Olympics cost Vancouver half a billion dollars

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Olympics cost Vancouver half a billion dollars

By: The Canadian Press

Date: Thursday Apr. 15, 2010 3:17 PM PT

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... (continued)

Full article: CTV BC: Olympics cost Vancouver half a billion dollars

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Attributing infrastructure costs as an 'Olympic" cost is short sighted and a strange leap of logic. The infrastructure items will be serving the community for decades to come. Many neighbourhoods benefitted from having amenities added that they may not have had for years otherwise-so enjoy them. As for the Canada Line-it was long overdue and makes getting around to areas that one needed to drive to previously very simple. It is a great addition for families without cars and a real bonus for people using the airport.

It is important to separate the infrastructure costs from costs that occured solely because of the Olympics. A little reality goes a long way in understanding a complex issue.

Unfortunately, the tools in the media like to fabricate big tax dollar "shock and awe" numbers...and now, the masses will take their word.

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Some rationality and logic:

Vancouver City's $554 million Olympic list a bit of creative accounting

By Jeff Lee 15 Apr 2010 - Inside the 2010 Olympics

Vancouver Sun

Vancouver city has come out with the first accounting of what it says it cost to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. And it says the amount is a whopping $554 million, nearly a third of Vanoc's entire $1.75 billion operating budget.

But the city staff report, issued Thursday in preparation for next Tuesday's council meeting, includes some, er, creative accounting that results in a sum of money that will give the anti-Olympics crowd some unjustified fodder.

The report suggests that the true cost of making the city available for the Games was actually just shy of $730 million, but that the good burghers at City Hall "leveraged an additional $175 million investment" from the Vancouver Organizing Committee and the provincial and federal governments.

But upon closer examination, the report includes some really dubious amounts and appears to leave out corresponding offsets that would make the total more meaningful. As an example, the report includes nearly $300 million in infrastructure costs related to the Southeast False Creek development, which was used (for all of a few months) as the village for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

It doesn't include the fact that the city expects to get back $115 million in development cost levies, or that the area was actually a long-term plan for a new neighborhood. In fact, the city began planning to convert the old industrial lands as early as 1991. It wasn't an "Olympic cost" to create a new neighborhood.

The report also speciously includes the $65 million cost of renovating the three aging civic theatres, the Playhouse, Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Orpheum Theatre. But all three of those renovation projects have long been on the books - in fact, since 1993. I checked with two of my entertainment colleagues, Peter Birnie and John Mackie, and both were genuinely surprised when I said these were being billed as Olympic costs.

The report doesn't include the city's nearly $1 billion loan to Millennium Development for construction of the village. Nor does it account for any of the funds the city will get back from the developer or the additional tax revenue that will accrue from the owners of the 1,000 units once they sell.

Now, I don't know about you, but I find it hard to accept that long-term civic infrastructures such as parks, waterfront walkways, underground lighting, sewers, waterlines, reconstruction and lease-out of the Salt Building, reconstruction of First Avenue and even the interminably long reconstruction of Granville Mall can be attributed to the Olympics. (The Granville Mall, I might add, is STILL closed to traffic. The $23.8 million project is being cost-shared with Translink. Since when was THAT an Olympic project?)

I don't have any doubt that the Olympics cost the city some major bucks. The construction of the Olympic sports venues - the Hillcrest curling arena and the new rinks at Trout Lake and Killarney - were done at an accelerated pace and the city bore much of the expense. In fact, the city says it paid $73.8 million of the $139 million spent on Olympic construction. The rest came from Vanoc and the other governments.

But included in the city's accounting of "Olympic cost estimates" was the $35 million aquatic centre at Hillcrest, the first 50-metre pool the city has built since the Vancouver Aquatic Centre 40 years ago. Now why in the world would you think that's an Olympic cost?

Councillor Geoff Meggs makes the argument that this is one exhaustive accounting of anything Olympic in which the city was involved. Councillor Suzanne Anton suggests it's more likely the current Vision Vancouvefr council wants a political report that it can wave around to scare people about the "hidden" costs of the Olympics.

I just look at this and wonder why the city put this report out without balancing it against the offsets it will receive or putting it into context. You can't lay the blame for 26 days of events on a half-billion dollar bill. This wouldn't fly by an accountant, I think.

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