March 05, 2010 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Games Experience 

Inside the fences, up close and out late


It took six and a half years to organize the 2010 Olympics and it could take at least that long to unravel them and what they mean for Vancouver and Whistler, the province of B.C. and Canada as a whole.

For example, at this point nobody is sure exactly how much they will cost. Estimates range as high as $6 billion, but there will probably never be a full and accurate accounting for the simple reason that it's impossible even to agree to terms of reference. Is the Sea to Sky Highway upgrade an Olympic cost or merely a well-timed infrastructure improvement? How about the $2 billion Canada Line?

Will Olympic venue legacies be self-sustaining in the long-term or will they require additional funding on top of the endowment fund that was set aside?

On the opposite end of the spectrum some venues could even recover their costs over the next few decades, like the cross-country trails at Whistler Olympic Park or the curling rink in Vancouver.

And how do you accurately account for all the staff hours spent on the Games within federal, provincial and municipal governments over the years?

Weighing the benefits is also next to impossible. You can credit the Olympics for any increase in tourism in the future but there are other factors to consider as well, such as the health of the economy, weather (especially for Whistler), receiving approved destination status from China, the value of currencies, the health of the airline industry and the efforts made by the tourism industry itself to attract visitors with the encouragement of the province. B.C.'s forestry and wood industries may benefit from their exposure at medals ceremonies, their pavilion and the Richmond Oval but the industry also benefits from economic growth, housing starts in Canada and the U.S., trade missions, favourable exchange rates, technology, investment, entrepreneurship, innovation and changes to the building code - factors that have little to do with hosting the Games.

So let's leave the economics aside for now.

In the aftermath the only way to properly value the Games is in the context of your own experiences. What did you love? What did you hate? Did you make money working three jobs, or get paid the same for working three times as hard? Or were you laid off for the month?

Were you a volunteer? Did your landlord kick you out or hike your rent? Did you meet anybody interesting or make new friends? Were you inspired? Disappointed? Did we win medals in the events that matter to you? Did you have the kind of experiences that you will remember forever, or would you rather forget about the Games and move on?

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