In the lead up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games Whistler heard from Games organizers over and over not to expect the Games to solve its problems.
The Games would not fill the resort with visitors holding fistfuls of cash; it would not fill every hotel room for years before or years after; it would not in one event put Whistler "on the map."
That did not, of course, prevent people from imagining that the Games would, in fact, do all these things.
Some of those imaginative people included the leaders of the Liberal party. Then Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell, told the province, "We can't afford not to do it" in 2002, as B.C. ramped up to try and win the Games from the International Olympic Committee. The Games would pay for themselves thanks to the jobs, economic activity and tourism they would bring to the province, touted the Liberals.
Every host nation to some extent uses the Games to showcase itself, to puff out and strut like a proud peacock, to hold itself up to the world and say, "we can do this, we can be better, stronger, faster."
According to a just-released report on the economic impact of the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics the Games, the pricetag of our chest-thumping was $4 billion, plus another $4 billion in associated costs such as the new Canada Line, the Sea to Sky Highway upgrades, the upgrades to the Vancouver Convention Centre and so on.
Of that $8 billion more than $6 billion was from governments or public agencies like TransLink and the airport authority. The report states that for every $12 spent by Ottawa and B.C. on the three big projects, local taxpayers contributed only $1 — that's a pretty good deal on the surface, but there is only one overall taxpayer at the end of the day — and that's us.
Games organizers were champions for the event, as we would expect, but for the most part they were clear that everyday people needed to get on board for the experience — not for profit.
And this latest report seems to echo the sage words Vancouver Olympic organizers said over and over at public meetings in the lead up to the event in Whistler.
Yes, Canada got a boost to its pride states the report — though the medal count was more likely part of an on-going trend than the result of having the Games at home — and, yes, Whistler and Vancouver got some hard infrastructure developments, but overall there was no benefit to Canada as a whole, no boost to tourism, and no long-term boost to jobs or the economy.
Not really a surprise.
But there is no denying that the infrastructure gain in Whistler is significant. Not only is the resort benefitting from the $600 million upgrade to the Sea to Sky Highway, it got a brand new neighbourhood in the legacy Athletes' Village community and a Nordic sport area that is now being marketed globally and drawing increased visitors.
There is, of course, the Whistler Sliding Centre — but it would take a debater of Thomas Henry Huxley's calibre (Darwin's "Bulldog") to convince most that this is a structure that brings any significant boost to the resort.
While it is great to have our national sliding teams here and even the World Cup events, there is little doubt that the expense of this piece of infrastructure is nothing but a drain on everybody's purse.
The report titled: Olympic Games Impact Post-Games Report was completed by a research team out of the University of British Columbia lead by Dr. Robert VanWynsberghe.
It is the fourth and final report required by the International Olympic Committee to measure the overall impact of the Games.
One bright spot in the report was the finding that in the post-Games Canada people were more likely to hire someone with a disability after the Games than before, and that in general Paralympians were thought of first as athletes.
Perhaps corridor residents, British Columbians and Canadians hoped that the Games would put money in their pockets, not take it out.
Instead what the Games left was a human legacy — pride in our nation and a deeper understanding of those with disabilities — maybe that won't pay the bills but it's a very "Canadian" result.
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