Prior to being awarded the 2010 Olympics two years ago in Prague, members of the Vancouver bid committee, people in the tourism industry, the business community and government officials talked about the Games being a catalyst. Growth in tourism, improved transportation infrastructure, business investment, global awareness of B.C. were all things that most people would like to see happen. Hosting the 2010 Games would set a deadline and help everyone focus on those goals. The Olympics, it was and is still said, are an opportunity.
Next week will mark two years since Vancouver and Whistler were awarded the 2010 Games, and so far things are going pretty well. Although the big event is still four and a half years away, and many of the big projects are just starting to ramp up, the original rationale for hosting the Games still holds and all the players which to a greater extent than many realized includes First Nations are still working together. Sponsorship dollars have already exceeded expectations and parts of the province other than Vancouver and Whistler are starting to see some of the benefits of hosting the Olympics.
The same could not be said in Italy, where Torino will host the 2006 Winter Olympics in less than nine months. A recent poll in Italy indicated many southern Italians dont even know the Olympics will be held in their country next February. Part of the problem is that sponsorship money has been less than expected, with two key sponsors bailing out. However, the national agency responsible for stimulating development in southern Italy recently announced it would make up some of the sponsorship shortfall. If nothing else, it should make southern Italians more aware of the Olympics.
Torino organizers are also facing challenges that may yet confront VANOC. Italy is officially in a recession, and the economies of most western European countries are struggling. Politically, Italy is about as unified as any country that has gone through 59 national governments in 60 years could be. On a regional level, the socialist mayor of Torino doesnt get on well with the right-wing government of the Piedmont region.
But the 2006 Winter Olympics are going to come together and be a success. The people of Torino and the Piedmont region are organized, industrious and doing everything they can to overcome the rest of the countrys "just-in-time delivery" mentality. The question is whether the region is going to get as much out of the Games as it could.
An all-too brief meeting with officials from the chambers of commerce for Torino and Piedmont revealed that, like B.C. and Vancouver, the city and the region have aspirations of using the Games as a catalyst for creating awareness, developing tourism and stimulating investment.