By Clare Ogilvie
The 2006 Torino Olympics were the most expensive Winter Games in history and it’s likely the Vancouver 2010 Games will cost about the same.
A recent study by two Italian economists has pegged the cost of the Torino Games at US $1.33 billion, based on organizing committee information. That’s US $33 million more than the organizing committee received in revenues.
And it says that various levels of government and others spent US $2.2 billion on costs associated with the Games, such as upgraded roads, transportation systems and civic facilities.
The study was released at a conference held last week at a University of Western Ontario International Olympic Symposium.
“(Report author Piervincenzo) Bondonio agrees with me that the final cost of (the Torino Games) will be well over $5 billion,” said professor Robert Barney, founder of the UWO’s International Centre of Olympic Studies, which accepted the Italian study at the recent conference.
“I think (the Vancouver 2010 Games) will be about the same.”
The prediction, based on the findings of the first independent Torino study to be done, jibes with a recent report by B.C.’s acting Auditor General Arn van Iersel. It found that the 2010 Games would cost Cdn $4.34 billion, with the cost to the taxpayer being Cdn $2.5 billion.
Barney said organizing committees always try to distance themselves from the building done around the Games, usually only including costs for items which must be built to host the Games. The belief is that any spending done on infrastructure should be done at public expense.
Over the years, said Barney, this has escalated the costs of hosting Olympics and has created a challenge for hosting areas left with Olympic facilities, such as bobsled/luge runs.
“…They never pay for themselves in terms of operations, and occupancy costs (when you compare it) against operation revenue,” he said.
The study also tracked the tremendous growth in the Winter Games showing that TV rights leaped to $832 million in Torino from $21 million at Lake Placid in 1980. Spectators have risen to 1.5 million from 433,000 at the 1980 Games.
And the number of media has grown from 3,983 in 1980 to 10,000 in Torino.
The authors of the report, University of Torino economist Bondonio and doctoral candidate Nadia Campaniello, based much of their data on surveys they conducted.
In general the report paints a rosy picture of the Games and their effect on the Olympic region.
But it also highlights the infighting among various levels of government and committees involved in the 2006 Games and it points out that by quickly disbanding key employees at the end of the event the organizing committee was unable to capitalize on the expertise gained from the Games.