Thursday, January 15, 2009

Don't walk away Van, eh (run, instead)

Would that we could walk away from Vancouver 2010.

It is a question no one has asked, for a reason (and to be honest, this is a such as five-alarm media firestorm that almost defies commenting, so might as well say something crazy). Backing out would be unthinkable, but so is the global credit crunch. Those who got the Globe this morning know the alarm bells was sounded before the economic excrement hit the aerofoil device, although talk of Van City being on the hook for a billion dollars gets thrown around a lot when there's politicking to be done.

It is probably not that bad, but it could get worse. That's why it's fun to cite the precedent of Denver, which welshed on hosting the 1976 Olympics and has found various sports power brokers can sustain a grudge for decades.

Thirty-six years later, it is still an open wound that Denver voters rejected a bond issue, which ultimately led to the '76 Games being held in Innsbruck, Austria, which had also hosted in '64. Denver did not become a ghost town although as Warren Zevon sang, there are things to do there when you're dead.

Any suggestion of Vancouver bailing is lunacy. Denver was three-plus years from hosting when it walked away. It is only 13 months in Vancouver/Whistler's case. That's yesterday in terms of planning an Olympics. It's also acknowledged straight up that in terms of Olympic finance, the only way to make a small fortune is to start with a very large fortune.

The Games always lose money for nearly everyone involved except the IOC (International Oldwhiteman Cartel) as Stephen Brunt noted in a column from this morning which also touched on the fact that you can't put a price tag on everything. Seriously, that column should be stapled to the foreheads of any and all Canadian Taxpayers Federation types (who you'd be nodding in agreement with 99% of the time).

Nevertheless, the question with Van 2010 might be not how bad it is, but how bad it might become. Nortel's woes are a bad sign. The security prep work will top a cool billion (thank the Lord that Stockwell Day is looking after that one) and taxpayers are going to be on the hook for the entire Olympic Village. On top of the Olympic Athletes Village project, and not to dally too much in despondent leftism, but there is the opportunity cost of not earmarking some of the village as future social housing.

On a blog front, VANOC's attitude is that social media does not exist. London is already planning how it's going to handle that aspect come 2012. While we're here, that one RBC commercial that runs ad nauseam during NFL and NHL broadcasts on CTV and TSN is already annoying.

No doubt this is classic Canadian carping, knowing the price of everything and value of nothing writ large (Oscar Wilde had this country nailed and he never even visited it), but seriously, there is the sense of being in too deep. Granted, that can always be blamed on the media.

Whistler wonderland trumps money woes, for now (Stephen Brunt,
Legislature to okay village financing; 'We want to do everything we can to help and we will do it as quickly as possible,' premier says (Vancouver Sun)
Security budget games means another Games embarrassment (Vancouver Sun)

1 comment:

Greg said...

Sometimes I think Olympic Organizing Committees all develop a sudden case of collective amnesia or habitual, bald-faced lying every time they bid for Games.

No OOC can ever say from a political point of view what they secretly know: Olympics, Summer or Winter, *never* make money and will always cost significantly more than the official price tag.

Politically, you can't sell an Olympics to the general public nowadays without listing "best-case scenarios" because the Olympics are just too big and too pricey now. More so, from a political point of view, everyone piles on with project requests associated with an Olympics because it by-passes (sometimes rightly, given how stodgy and provincial people can be when it comes to things that don't affect them directly) public debate and consultations.

It's really a testament to a lack of vision within governments that they'd use an ultra-expensive mega-event to justify big change in a city.

Vancouver's just following the trend set in Montreal, perfected in Los Angeles, exploited in Atlanta, and overspent to scary levels in Athens.

Swifter, Higher, Stronger indeed.