Editorial: Cost of 2010 Games now looks good

The Olympic venues for the 2014 Sochi Games will be ready “on time and with the appropriate quality,” Russia’s president Vladimir Putin declared this week.

But staging these Olympics is coming at a truly mind-boggling cost. The country says preparing the world stage in Sochi will reach $50 billion—a cost more than five times the original estimate.

Sochi is set to become the most expensive Olympic Games in history—and it’s making Vancouver 2010 look like an absolute bargain for taxpayers.

Richmond first pledged its allegiance to the 2010 Olympics by plunking down $500,000 to assist in the bid. To critics, the cash just represented 200 years of property taxes. But what the city landed was the Richmond Olympic Oval.

It cost $178 million to build, and millions more to outfit in and out. Understandably, the price tag was another tough pill to swallow. But with millions from a land sale and casino returns, it made financial sense, and today Richmond has a growing centre for recreation and athletics.

It cost $925 million to stage the entire 2010 Games, the B.C. government concluded. That figure doesn’t include the billions spent in security, the Canada Line, highway construction or developing a new convention centre.

Officially Vancouver Olympic organizers had a $1.884 billion budget, but many say the real total is closer to $6 billion. Whatever the number, the cost of Vancouver doesn’t come close to Sochi, which has already spent $37.85 billion preparing the city and 2014 venues.

In Vancouver, athletes won 26 medals—Canada’s best Winter Games showing in history—in the most watched Winter Olympics, with an estimated TV audience of 3.5 billion. Positive impacts can be measured in economic growth and local development, and there are many other intangibles.

Staging an Olympic Games has proven the ultimate test in managing massive projects—and Vancouver’s Games are now looking pretty good.

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