By Clare Ogilvie and Claire Piech
Whistler may finally have its own Olympic spending budget but
it is still far from clear what the total cost of the Games will be to the
The interpretive accounting that seems to always follow Olympic
events was front and centre at this week’s council meeting following the
release of the updated strategic plan for the Games by Whistler’s Olympic Games
The budget is pegged at $8.7 million but that does not include
Games-time operations — service contracts that are still being
negotiated. As well, many of the indirect costs associated with hosting such a
large event are not included in the budget.
“We struggled with what should be included and what should not
be included,” executive director for the 2010 Winter Games Jim Godfrey
explained to an inquisitive council during Monday’s meeting.
“With the athletes’ village, for example, we did not look at
that as an Olympic cost, but we included information on the athletes’ village
in the (budget) document. We are trying to identify all those costs, but we
weren’t saying those were a direct Olympic expense.”
His explanation came after several councillors objected to the
way the budget was tallied. Indirect contributions are included in the revenue,
which totals $87.7 million, but indirect costs are not incorporated into the
$8.7 million expenditure.
Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said such accounting was like
“comparing apples to oranges.”
“We are not doing this for $8.7 million,” stated
Wilhelm-Morden. “We are doing it for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of
thousands, more when you take into account capital costs that maybe are not
directly related to the Olympics but are being hastened for the Olympics, like
the landfill closure.
“Let’s not kid ourselves.”
Mayor Ken Melamed echoed her comments, saying: “If you are
going to include the capital numbers in the ($87.7) million, you need to
include them in the cash out.”
Wilhelm-Morden was the only councillor to vote against
endorsing the draft budget.
Councillor Bob Lorriman pointed out that even without the
Olympics, Whistler would still be spending money on the upgrade of the sewage
treatment plant and closing the landfill.
“When you go back to apples and oranges, you can’t say we would
be sitting here doing nothing, but yeah we did accelerate some of those
expenditures,” he said.