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2010 Winter Games will cost the taxpayer millions

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VANCOUVER — Hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will cost taxpayers about $60 million.

Add to that the cost of upgrading the Sea to Sky Highway and the tab rises to $660 million.

While bid organizers are loath to attach the cost of the highway upgrades to the bid they admit it would be hard to have a winning bid without a three-lane highway to Whistler.

"I wouldn’t want to be staging the Games without it being fixed," said Terry Wright, vice president of bid development, at the release of the bid book this week in Vancouver.

The $60 million cost is the difference between the money it takes to stage the Games and the tax revenues expected to be generated by the Games for the provincial and federal governments.

According to the economic reviews done by the provincial government the Games should generate between $600 million and $1 billion.

The Games will cost about $860 million to put on - $620 million in capital costs, $200 million in security and other federal costs and a $40 million subsidy for the Paralympic Games.

If you accept that the Games are likely to produce around $800 million in tax revenues (the median between $600 million and $1 billion) and cost $860, you are left with a $60 million deficit.

The bid book did not include the costs of the proposed Vancouver Convention Centre, which would house the media, or rapid transit to the airport, as they are not essential to hosting the Games.

However most believe having them on the planning books would help Vancouver’s chances of winning the Games.

The Convention Centre is expected to cost $495 million and rapid transit another$1.8 billion.

No Games spokesman Chris Shaw is worried by the global nature of the cost figures, which he believes, are too low.

"When you look at the bid book (the Bid Corp) does not actually give line items for any of the cost," he said.

For example, said Shaw, bid organizers say security is $175 million.

"How is that derived? What did they actually do to come up with a number like that?

"When you don’t see the detailed evaluation you have no way of knowing if that is a realistic estimate.

"I think we can safely anticipate that the numbers are just not right on security and if they have done that on security what have they done elsewhere?

"They really have to break these things down to dollars and cents… How can you evaluate it. It is all pictures of Mounties standing by streams.

"I don’t believe they have proved that the numbers are accurate.

"And secondly, is this justifiable. Maybe if we were the richest country in the universe it would be justifiable, but we are not.

"So is this where we want to be spending tax dollars?"

It should be noted that the 460-page bid book is produced in response to a set of detailed questions by the International Olympic Committee and only covers a limited amount of financial information.

Whistler’s Mayor Hugh O’Reilly believes the bid book does a good job of outlining the plan and conveying the important themes of the Games.

"It is very concise," he said.

"For everything I read I know there is such a body of knowledge behind all of that and they have had to condense it down."

O’Reilly, while a little disappointed by the fact that rail service for the Games will be restricted to a shuttle between the Callaghan and Creekside, believes any focus on rail service is useful.

"Our goal is to see train service to Whistler and I don’t know that we care how we get it," said O’Reilly.

"If the Olympics stimulate discussion and awareness about it but didn’t deliver it, but somebody else does in the long run, I am just as satisfied."

Most of the information in the bid book has been public for some time. But it has never been available in such a condensed manner before.

The book outlines everything form the costs and revenues to cultural programs.

For example, there is a search on to come up with a great Olympic Icon for the Games in the Lower Mainland.

Under consideration is the placement of huge Olympic rings on Grouse Mountain or the Lions Gate Bridge.

We also know the Olympic torch will come from Greece by plane over the pole to the northern most part of B.C. before criss-crossing the country to arrive in Vancouver.

"The torch relay will be a people’s event covering 15,000 km on foot, dog sled, snowmobile, horse, plane and most other means of transport known to Canadians," states volume three of the bid book.

"Over a period of 114 days – one for each year of the modern Olympic era – more than seven thousand Canadian of all ages and diverse cultures will carry the Torch.

"Millions more along the route will be touched by the flame as the Olympic spirit is kindled from coast to coast to coast."

Bid Corporation chairman John Furlong described the bid book as the "backbone of our bid."

"It’s the document we get our energy from. The book is the plan but it in a way defines us, it defines who we are and defines our overall strategy."

Bid competitors Salzburg, Austria and Pyeongchang, Korea, have also released their bid books at home. Both should be on the Web this week.

Salzburg is projecting their Games will cost $1.35 billion, a little less than Vancouver’s Games.

About $325 million will be spent on building new buildings and refurbishing others according to Salzburg’s bid. Vancouver expects to spend $620 million.

There will be a $34 million athlete’s village at Kitzbuhel developed by private partners. After the Games it would become a hotel.

Vancouver’s bid includes two athletes villages – one at the mouth of the Callaghan Valley which would become employee restricted housing post Games, and the other in False Creek in Vancouver. A portion of which would become subsidized housing.

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