An Olympic Games Impact study has found the Highway 99 upgrade likely caused increased air pollution in the Sea to Sky corridor.
The study, which looked at information between 2002 and 2006, concluded that it was likely the rise in emissions was due to the $600 million upgrade to Highway 99, which though always on the books, was pushed ahead to completion in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"The particular Whistler/Squamish trend is most likely attributable to increased construction and other activities oriented towards preparing the region for the Games in 2010, possibly in particular the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement project," states the report.
"Although this construction is not considered a 'Games project,' it was expedited by the Games (the highway upgrade would have occurred over a longer period if Vancouver was not the 2010 Host City)," it stated.
"Therefore, the Games may have had an indirect negative impact on air quality in Whistler/Squamish."
The Olympic Games Impact (OGI) Pre-Games Report, led by University of British Columbia Prof. Rob VanWynsberghe, is the second of four studies required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to measure the overall impact of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
The OGI uses 126 IOC-mandated indicators to measure the economic, social and environmental conditions of the host city, region and country.
"Our approach to OGI is designed to explore whether or not the Games have had an impact on the host, if that impact is positive or negative, and where possible, to determine the size of the impact," VanWynsberghe said.
"So far, in combining the social, economic and environmental spheres we see a slight positive impact."
VanWynsberghe, from the School of Human Kinetics and Department of Educational Studies in the UBC Faculty of Education, will work with researchers to table the two remaining OGI reports in 2010 and 2013.
"Our findings will help guide future bidders and organizing committees to maximize the benefits of the Games and create a standard by which all future Games will be measured," said VanWynsberghe.
The report could draw no conclusions about whether the Games were negatively impacting housing or homelessness in Vancouver, a hot-button issue for those concerned about how the event will impact the homeless and others struggling in low-cost housing.
It did find a correlation between how well Canadian athletes are doing in competition and the increase in investment in their training and equipment made by governments and other organizations.
The report also concluded that the selection of Vancouver and Whistler as host of the 2010 Winter Games likely contributed to the increase in the number of companies in Metro Vancouver (by 17 per cent) and in the Squamish-Lillooet region (by 36 per cent).
Vancouver also seemed to enjoy increasing popularity as a place to host international events (increase of 46 per cent between 2001-02 and 2006-07), which may in part be due to the upcoming 2010 Games, said the report.
However, the Olympic Games do not appear to have affected the number of tourists to Vancouver in the time period of the study.