Opinion » Editorial


Judging always a factor in Olympics


The sports of the Olympics fall into two categories: those that are decided by universal measures – who went fastest, highest or scored the most goals – and those that are judged by human beings. In the sport of bidding for the Olympics the universal measure is the U.S. dollar, but there’s a judging component that’s factored into the final score.

We point to the mini bid books of the applicants to host the 2010 Winter Olympics (all but the Chinese bid are now available on the Internet) as an example of hard numbers being used but being open to interpretation. It’s difficult to pick out comparisons within each of the leading bids because each has its own strengths and weaknesses; each has existing facilities and each requires new facilities.

However, all of the leading candidates – Vancouver, Bern, Salzburg and Pyeongchang, Korea – have to build new speed skating ovals in order to host the Games. The costs, according to the mini bid books, range from $77 million for the Korean facility to $15 million for a temporary track in Bern. Salzburg says its speed skating oval will cost $20 million and the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation has estimated its track will cost $37.3 million. Bern and Pyeongchang – the least expensive and the most expensive tracks, respectively – are each planning facilities for 10,000 spectators, Vancouver for 9,000 and Salzburg’s oval will seat 6,000.

Obviously if you were a general contractor you would like to be bidding on construction of the Pyeongchang speed skating oval; the Koreans seem to be looser with their estimates.

But comparing numbers between bids at this stage is best left to French figure skating judges. Assessing costs of other aspects of the Vancouver bid also requires some judgement.

The public perception is that any upgrade to the Sea to Sky highway (figures are up to $1.8 billion) will be done specifically for the 2010 Olympics. The expanded Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre ($500 million) and the proposed rapid transit link between downtown Vancouver and the airport in Richmond (anywhere from $1 billion to $2 billion) are also seen to be Olympic projects. The province, meanwhile, is working hard to sell the notion that these are infrastructure improvements that need to be done regardless of whether Vancouver and Whistler host the Olympics. You be the judge.

Building highways, particularly in tough economic times, has been a British Columbia tradition since the days of Phil Gaglardi, and seems likely to continue. The Ministry of Transportation has a mountain of studies and hard numbers showing the Sea to Sky highway will reach capacity in the next few years, what the alternatives are and why expanding the present highway is, in its eyes, the only realistic option.

There’s a judging component involved in deciding this issue too. Because the corridor doesn’t have a long-term development plan in place – only commitments to development – it’s hard to argue with the Ministry of Transportation data. But in effect, the process has been reversed, with the ministry telling the corridor what’s its highway capacity needs are, rather than the corridor communities determining their needs in relation to highway improvements.

Regardless of how highway needs are measured, a decision on upgrading the highway will be made before the end of the year, to satisfy the 2010 Bid Corporation and the IOC.

One of the other Olympic legacies promised Whistler, regardless of whether the bid is successful or not, is a land bank for resident-restricted housing. The Callaghan Valley is generally regarded as the site for this land bank/athletes village, although three other sites are also being considered. The province will pay to build the athletes village if the Games come here. If the Olympics are held elsewhere, Whistler will still get the land but will have to figure out how to pay for sewer, water and roads to service it.

The land bank is judged to be a pretty good legacy for Whistler, but the final figures on developing it will depend on the IOC’s decision next year.

Add a comment