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Vancouver 2010 Culture Budget "very Dissapointing"


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'It's very disappointing,' artists say of Olympic budget

Critics unimpressed with $20-million allotted to scaled-back Cultural Olympiad

ALEXANDRA GILL

From Monday's Globe and Mail

May 14, 2007 at 3:27 AM EDT

VANCOUVER — Culture is enshrined in the Olympic Charter as one of the three pillars of the Olympic Movement. And for the host country, the artistic program - the razzle-dazzle spectacle of the opening ceremonies, most significantly - is the ultimate opportunity to set the tone of the games and sell the soul of the nation to the world.

You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Now we finally know how much money is going to be spent on the cultural program for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

And while organizers claim excitement over the budgets for the Ceremonies ($64.3 million) and Cultural Olympiad ($20-million), members of Vancouver's arts community are less than impressed. Burke Taylor, vice-president of culture and ceremonies for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), says the budgets are "very strong by historic standards" and will go a long way to creating "the most ambitious" arts and cultural festival the Winter Games has ever seen.

But some artists aren't happy with the figures, and what is perceived as a scaled-back vision.

"It's really disappointing," says Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles.

The executive director of Vancouver's Alliance for Arts and Culture, says the $20-million allotted for the Cultural Olympiad, which includes a five-week Olympic Arts Festival in 2010, the 10-day Paralympic Arts Festival in 2010, pre-game celebrations to be held across the country in February and March of 2008 and 2009, plus 3½ years of educational programs beginning next September, falls short.

"That's not a lot of money to do a lot of ambitious programming, particularly if these festivals are going to be national and international in scope," Wilhelm-Boyles notes.

By comparison, the budget for Luminato, Toronto's new 10-day cultural festival that kicks off June 1, is $12-million. ItalyArt, the program of cultural events that took place during the 2006 Winter Games in Turin and struggled with many problems, cost up to $35-million.

The original plan, as outlined in the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 bid book, was to have a four-year Cultural Olympiad, beginning in Vancouver and Whistler in 2006. The allotted budget was $18.2-million (U.S., the International Olympic Committee reports all figures in U.S. dollars), which was worth a lot more then than it would be now, considering how much the value of the Canadian dollar has increased.

"People understand that when you put in a bid, you sometimes inflate your ideas. The reality can be somewhat less than your fondest dreams," Wilhelm-Boyles concedes.

He points out that a large chunk of the $64-million ceremonies budget will presumably go to artists. (That figure is broken down into roughly $58.4-million for Olympic Ceremonies and about $5.8-million for Paralympic Ceremonies). "But again, we have no frame of reference," he says.

The budget for the ceremonies is expected to cover the opening and closing shows for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, plus all the welcoming and nightly medal ceremonies.

The budget does, nonetheless, seem promising when compared to the opening and closing ceremonies in Turin, which are estimated to have cost $38.5-million.

The Vancouver organizing committee is now sifting through applications for an executive producer to oversee the ceremonies, which will be seen by some three billion television viewers around the world, making them the two biggest media programs produced in Canadian history.

Toronto producer Garth Drabinsky is rumoured to be in the running. Neither he, nor Taylor would comment last week.

Taylor insists that the pre-games cultural component has simply been refocused, not delayed. Instead of programming winter festivals for 2006 and 2007, the committee decided it made more sense to invest in development funding.

Last month, a new $6.5-million fund, called Arts Partners in Creative Development, was announced. The three-year program, designed to encourage original works in the performing, visual, media and literary arts, allows arts and cultural organizations in British Columbia to apply for 90 per cent of their development and commissioning costs, to a maximum of $300,000.

"I don't think we've lost any of our ambition," Taylor says.

"We got off to a slower start than we expected. But we've probably made the wise choice in terms of ensuring the resources are invested in a way that will have the maximum output, in terms of celebration and festivals and leaving legacies in the community."

He also explains that the budgets announced last week are just the beginning. The committee is planning to leverage it into additional money with corporate sponsors and partnerships in other provinces.

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