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Second report of impact of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games promises billions in economic benefits

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According to a new economic study Whistler and Vancouver will enjoy major economic benefits if the 2010 Winter Olympic Games come to B.C.

The study claims between 45,000 and 99,000 total person years of employment would be created depending on which of four scenarios created for the study is adopted.

If you add in the expansion of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre the employment numbers jump to 126,000 to 244,000 years of employment.

It also states the Games could generate between $6.1 billion and $10.7 billion in economic activity, and result in tax revenues of between $1.4 billion to $2.6 billion.

The higher numbers presume the convention centre is built.

The new report, commissioned by the provincial government and completed by InterVISTAS Consulting Inc., builds on an earlier government report released last January.

"The study revisits our original analysis, validates the general approach and adjusts some of the parameters so the predictions are as accurate as possible," said Ted Nebbeling, Minister of State for the 2010 Olympic Bid.

"The numbers are virtually the same: Combined with an expanded convention centre the Games will mean up to $10 billion in total economic activity, more than 200,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in tax revenues."

Both studies focus only on money that will come into British Columbia from out of province as a result of hosting the 2010 Games.

The new study adopted some changes including recognizing that some visitors, such as those who stay with friends or relatives rather than in hotels, will spend less than the average tourist. It also excluded any tourism impacts earlier than 2008 and after 2015 in all but the high scenario in order to be conservative, and transport investments were excluded from the incremental impacts.

It also took into account the latest information on impacts of Olympic Games and visitor spending by Canadians living outside B.C.

The study predicts that the number of international visitors will increase in the two years prior to the Games and for as many as seven years after the event.

They are enticed by the heightened international awareness created by the tourism marketing program, international media coverage of the province during the build up to the Games, coverage of the Games and new sporting facilities.

Indeed the whole report is premised on tourists coming to B.C. in greater numbers as a result of the Games.

"That is a projection of the number of tourists who will travel to the host city so that becomes pure speculation," said Kevin Wamsley, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario.

"They are investing in a sort of a hope or an estimate of what they speculate will be the number of tourists who will arrive for the Games. It is a fair thing to do but it could create some problems if you are off.

"And it is difficult to judge what the economy of the city or the country will be doing at that particular time."

Vancouver councillor-elect Jim Green, who is also a member of an Olympic watchdog group, is not just concerned about the numbers he is also worried about who will get the predicted jobs.

"These numbers are abstract jobs because they would go to people all over the country," he said.

"These job numbers have no meaning for the people here. "They really don’t have a clue when it comes to these numbers. You can project these things but we don’t have a science here."

The study fails to include what British Colombians will spend themselves to enjoy the Games.

Nor is there any cost associated with the marketing, which will have to be done to capitalize on the event if B.C. wants the economic spin-offs to occur.

And little mention is made of the costs of hosting the Games themselves or the money which will be spent on infrastructure projects associated with the Games, such as the upgrade to the Sea to Sky Highway.

Meanwhile, Vancouver is still promising to let its residents have their yea or nay on the Games.

A referendum is out, said councillor-elect Green, for legal and cost reasons.

But city hall is investigating some sort of plebiscite.

Three factors are influencing when it will be held. Green said council wants the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation Bid Book to be public, the auditor general’s report to be released, and the visit of the International Olympic Committee evaluation team to be over.

The IOC team will visit Vancouver and Whistler between March 2 and 5.

A decision will be made by the IOC this July on who will host the 2010 Games. Vying for the event are Vancouver, Salzburg, Austria and Pyeongchang, Korea.

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