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2010 Olympics will cost the taxpayer plenty - Lenskyj



An expert on the social and economic costs of hosting Olympic Games offers warning on price tag and effects on the poor

Legacies are not free.

They are paid for out of taxpayers’ money Helen Lenskyj, author of Inside the Olympic Industry: Power Politics and Activism, told a score of interested Whistler residents last week at a special Olympic information session put on by AWARE.

Lenskyj, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, has studied the social impact of Olympic Games on communities for the last several years.

She is about to produce her second book, an in-depth look at the Sydney Summer Olympic Games of 2000.

Lenskyj takes issue with the use of the word legacy, which she believes implies it is free.

"It is not," she said.

It is instead code for infrastructure paid for by the taxpayer which organizations pushing for an Olympics need to host the Games.

The Whistler area is in line to get several "legacies" should the Games be awarded to Vancouver.

They include: The Callaghan Nordic centre, an athlete's village, a multipurpose complex and a bobsleigh run.

As well as partially or completely funding these facilities, endowments will also be put in place to ensure they do not burden the municipality or the province. The endowments are funded by all levels of government as part of the $620 million cost of the must-have facilities for the Winter Games.

Lenskyj also warned that the cost to the taxpayer does not stop there. She described the boosters of Olympics as placing a "firewall" between the cost of mounting the event and the building of the facilities and the infrastructure.

That way the cost of improving the Sea to Sky Highway, or building a new Vancouver Convention Centre or a rapid transit link between Richmond and Vancouver are not included.

In Sydney, said Lenskyj, the total cost of the Games was $2.36 billion and 50 per cent or more of that was paid for by the taxpayer.

She doesn't expect the situation to be any different in British Columbia.

She also warned the audience of being wooed by the powerful media messaging from the organizations which push to host Olympics.

"The Olympics is not a religious experience," said Lenskyj, who believes the Olympics should be dismantled.

"It is not a lifestyle. It is not extended family. It is an industry and it is about profit making.

"The Olympic industry is about profit and widening the gap between the rich and the poor."

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