Vancouver Olympics worth the $7-billion price tag, probe says

Volleyball players work out at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday October 7, 2010. The venue, which hosted speedskating events during the two thousand ten Olympics, has been turned into a multi-use community facility.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The two thousand ten Winter Olympics cost more than $7-billion to stage, but they were worth it because they spurred major infrastructure developments that helped convert Vancouver and Whistler, a fresh examine concludes.

But while Canada got an photo boost and felt a surge of national pride, the tangible benefits have mostly been loved by the two host cities, says Rob VanWynsberghe, an education professor at the University of British Columbia who researched the event for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

“I think Vancouver and Whistler did well. … I wouldn’t say the same for the province or the country,” he said Wednesday.

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“I think the overall lesson is that these are a very specific kind of phenomena. If you want to look at impacts you concentrate on the host city … there’s spillover, but it’s not sea to shining sea.”

The Olympics were a galvanizing force in B.C. for several years leading up to 2010, but the long-term social and economic impacts have been unclear.

The report states that the Games did not provide a significant boost in tourism, nor did the event show up to significantly switch the international photos of Vancouver or Whistler.

Compared with Edmonton and Toronto, Vancouver and Whistler had no significant increase in tourism in two thousand ten over 2009. “This finding suggests that being an event region had little to no effect on the number of overnight tourists during the event year,” the examine states.

The report also says the Games, “did not show up to have influenced the appeal of the host [cities] with respect to either Consumer Price Index or the [value of the] real estate market … [with] no unusual switch in either.”

But the examine found there were major benefits in the form of three massive infrastructure projects – the Sea-to-Sky Highway upgrade, which switched a dangerous, winding mountain road into a safer, swifter highway; the construction of the Canada Line, which provided rapid transit to Vancouver International Airport and several communities on the route; and the Vancouver Convention Centre, which gave the city a large, modern conference venue overlooking the harbour.

Those projects, along with a flurry of smaller developments including fresh community centres, the Olympic Village in Whistler and the Richmond Olympic Oval, drove up the cost of the Games, but gave Whistler and Vancouver developments the cities might never have seen.

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