February 18, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

What the Games left behind 

Making the most of our Olympic legacies


There are few events in the world that require as much money or infrastructure to stage as an Olympic Games.

And what has been left behind in Whistler is a testament to the grandiose nature of the event and the inherited costs.

It may be years before we know if the main venues - the $119 million Whistler Sliding Centre and the $120 million Whistler Olympic Park - were worth the investment. What can be said is that business plans are being developed in the hopes of making the venues a valuable asset for the community.

Fortunately Whistler and other Sea to Sky communities don't have to support these venues entirely on their own. In 2007 the provincial and federal governments each kicked in $55 million to create the Games Operating Trust - a fund that supports various legacies to take over operations post-Games. The proceeds from that fund (or up to five per cent of the average balance of the fund for the year) are split 40/40/20, with 40 per cent going to Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies (W2010SL - a private not-for-profit created to own and manage Whistler's Olympic venues), 40 per cent going to the Richmond Olympic Oval, and 20 per cent going into a contingency.

Whistler's share of the fund for this season - summer of 2010 to summer of 2011 - was $2.2 million, although 43 per cent of that money reverted to the 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), which operated the facilities until they were handed over to W2010SL in June.

That left the W2010SL with $1.2 million to operate both the Whistler Olympic Park and Whistler Sliding Centre - not nearly enough to cover operational costs. Keith Bennett, the president and CEO of the W2010SL, acknowledged as much when they received the funding last summer, but with the help of key stakeholders - federal and provincial governments, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canada Paralympic Committee - they are getting assistance through this crucial first season.

W2010SL has not released its budget for the season yet, but did share the following statement with Pique :

"Our next disbursement from the Legacy Endowment Fund is expected on June 1, 2011. Our partners have provided interim funding as Whistler Sport Legacies refines our Business Plan. Revenue from our public program are on target, which contributes towards offsetting organizational costs. Whistler Sport Legacies has no acquired debt. Our annual financial statements will be made available once approved by the Board at their next meeting."

Locally, the question has been asked: why is the split of Games Operating Trust (GOT), which manages the Legacy Endowment Fund, set at 40/40/20, split down the middle between W2010SL and the Richmond Olympic Oval - regardless of how much the legacies actually cost to operate?

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