By Clare Ogilvie
A just-released government report is raising concerns over just how many tourism dollars can be garnered by B.C. in hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Previously the government had stated that it expected the event to bring in at least $4 billion in economic benefits. Recently the estimate has been upped to $10 billion by non-governmental organizations.
But in a report released last week Acting Auditor General Arn van Iersel states the benefits may be less.
“We notice, however, that the marketing effort to date has been delayed and uncoordinated, with no central agency taking the lead,” stated van Iersel.
“Also, given the (International Olympic Committee’s) restriction around the timing of marketing the Games, the Province’s main Games-related marketing efforts cannot begin until after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, six years later than the start date proposed in the economic impact study.”
Colin Hansen, Minister of Economic development and the minister responsible for the Games, while welcoming the AG’s warning, disputes some of the findings of the report.
He takes issue with the idea that the marketing effort is not coordinated and should be in the hands of Tourism B.C.
“The coordination is being driven by the (Province’s) Olympic Secretariat,” said Hansen.
“Obviously marketing tourism is a big part of this, but that is not all of it. We see the Olympics as an opportunity to market investment attraction, business attraction, immigration, temporary worker programs and tourism. We are already working closely with Tourism B.C. and they have lots of initiatives under way, but that is only one part of what it is to market the province.”
Hansen admits more work needs to be done in fine-tuning the role and work of the Secretariat.
But, he added: “Three and a half years out from the Games I believe they are well on track to deliver what needs to be delivered. We still have lots of work ahead of us to capitalize on this.”
When questioned about why the province’s economic impact study used a model that did not take into account the fact that international marketing could not begin until after 2008 Hansen said at the time the study was produced host nations were allowed to market overseas.
“…The IOC has been changing the rules as we have been progressing,” said Hansen.
“I think the fact that we can’t use the Olympics rings in our international marketing until after 2008… makes it more of a challenge, but what we are trying to do is find innovative ways of doing that which still capitalizes on the fact that we are an Olympic jurisdiction without violating the IOC rules.”