As of last Sunday, Feb. 12, Vancouver and Whistler were officially four years away from hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. There was a small, intimate ceremony at the Olympic Information Centre to mark the occasion, which barely hinted at the strain that VANOC and our local governments must be under these days.
A lot has to come together in the next four years (or less, if you include mandatory test events), and its coming together slowly.
Making things worse, at the beginning of the month it was announced that the estimated cost of building Olympic venues had increased by an estimated $110 million, or almost 25 per cent since 2002. If VANOC had not already found $85 million in capital savings, the costs would have increased by a total $195 million or 41 per cent in three years. Blame Chinas sudden lust for steel and concrete if you will, or an excess of budgetary optimism on the part of VANOC, but thats the reality of the construction market were dealing with.
Its a huge burden, one that will have to be shared by federal and provincial governments (through your tax dollars), VANOCs corporate partners and the Games themselves, but its not insurmountable. Put into perspective, the $580 million price tag is on par with the estimated 455 million euros the Italians spent to build and upgrade their host venues and which doesnt include 255 million euros for the construction of three athletes villages.
Since the costs of upgrading Highway 99 are technically not Olympic-related, the 2010 Games almost appear cheap by comparison.
But if you need to compare, consider that the Liberal Partys failed gun registration program has cost us about a billion dollars so far, and the extra $110 million for facilities is only slightly more than the $80 million Gomery Inquiry is expected to cost us in order to investigate a $100 million federal sponsorship scandal.
See, it really helps to put things into perspective sometimes! Compared to the dayto-day operations of our governments, the 2010 Games are a model of fiscal restraint.
If anything, I think these Torino Games are taking the pressure off of VANOC and the host communities. Whistlers downhill course is in far better shape today than the one at Borgata, Italy that took out three female skiers last weekend including Canadas Allison Forsyth. Our sliding centre will also hopefully be safer, without the double corners that caused so many horrendous crashes in the luge on Monday.
And the opening ceremonies in Turin how can we not top that strange and disjointed display, even if our ceremonies are indoors at B.C. Place?