On paper, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games were a break-even exercise, as any chance of earning a profit evaporated alongside $15 trillion in wealth in the economic collapse of 2007. One minute sponsorships were exceeding expectations, the next they were so low that VANOC had to go to the province and federal government to help fund the Opening Ceremonies.
According to the final numbers released by the Vancouver Organizing Committee, the Games met their operating budget of $1.9 billion almost to the penny. As well, $603 million of the total was invested in venues, which came in on time and on budget.
"We made a promise and we repeated it many times that we would not leave behind a bad result and we would not leave behind an unpleasant financial surprise at the end of the Games, and it was our priority all through those years to keep our word and live up to that promise," said former VANOC CEO John Furlong on Friday, presenting the final accounting from the Games.
The report was delayed by ongoing issues, such as the attempt to recover $2 million that was lost in a ticket scam. Only $500,000 was recovered.
There's no question VANOC had its challenges. Sponsorships initially exceeded expectations, with Bell, CTV and others who came on board prior to 2007 paying record rates. But the economic collapse resulted in far lower corporate interest at Games time than the organizers anticipated. That forced VANOC to go to the provincial and federal governments for $187 million for their operating costs - including almost $20 million for the opening ceremonies and torch relay, and funding for the Paralympics.
The International Olympic Committee, also recognizing the tough economy, contributed an additional $22 million. VANOC only used some of that money, according to reports.
While critics have dubbed them "the bailout Games," Furlong pointed out that 91 per cent of their operating costs came from non-government sources - mainly corporate sponsorship.
However, many suggest that the true cost of the Games were much higher, in the order of $5 billion when all the infrastructure upgrades and security costs are included.
On the infrastructure front, VANOC's budget did not include the $600 million Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project, $2 billion Canada Line or the new Vancouver Convention Centre which came in at $883 million, or almost double the original budget.
On security, the total costs were estimated last week at almost $854 million, with the federal government covering about 72 per cent of the total. That's slightly less than the $900 million expected, but far more than the $175 million touted in the original Games budget.