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Olympic budget questioned

The Games will cost Whistler $8.7 million, says 2010 office


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 community.

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 office.

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.

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