The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Wednesday, July 02, 2003


Vancouver 2010: Where I Stand

Okay, it’s Olympic crunch time. Sometime around 8:00 AM PDT, International Olympic Committee boss Jacques Rogge will announce which city will host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games: Vancouver, Salzburg, or Pyeongchang.

So where do I stand on the Olympics in Vancouver?

I voted “Yes” in February’s plebiscite on the city’s participation in the games.

The vote was non-binding, but it gave a good sense of how Vancouverites felt about the bid after it had been dissected at City Hall, at the water cooler, and even in the media. Press coverage of the bid was often soft; CanWest Global and its Vancouver print and broadcast properties were backing the bid on the op-ed pages of their papers and through giving the 2010 bid committee lots of space and time to promote the bid. Even so, journos like the Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer gave the bid and its potential pitfalls a public airing even if the critical coverage was often obscured by fluff. By the time the polls opened, the Vancouver bid book had been released to the public, and the provincial auditor-general had completed his review of the bid’s financial projections. Unlike many other Olympic polls and votes, this one came after the bid was thoroughly hashed out. Unlike most Olympic plebiscites, the thing passed by a 64%-36% margin.

Why did I vote “Yes?”

If you want the honest answer, it’s part greed, part boosterism. The greed is from the knowledge that if Vancouver gets the 2010 games, the city and region will be seeing a lot of spending for facilities and infrastructure from senior levels of government. Those improvements will only partially be paid by Vancouver taxpayers—most of the money will come from those in the rest of B.C. and Canada. For a city that often complains about being short-changed on spending, especially from Ottawa, it’s a boost. If anything gets Ottawa’s attention, it’s a big international event, and the feds would throw money at an Olympics in Come-by-Chance if that Newfoundland city was selected to host one. On the other hand, I’m under no illusions that any extra federal dough will silence those who claim that British Columbia gets a raw deal from the federal government. Some things are constant in Wet Coast politics...

Most of the infrastructure will be in Vancouver proper; some in will go to Whistler, and bits and pieces in the suburbs of Richmond (a broadcasting centre and a curling practice facility) and Burnaby (the speed skating oval.) The Vancouver Athletes’ Village will turn into some sort of affordable housing after the Games—that’s a bunch of slightly used housing stock built gratis.

Other funding not directly tied to the Games will also come through. The federal government will be more likely to help arrange financing of the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit line in order to get visitors into the city quickly without overloading the two main roads from YVR to downtown. A new waterfront convention centre will also be expedited. So will other infrastructure not directly related to the games.

Am I being bribed with my own money? Yes. So sue me. That’s what much domestic and local politics is based on, and I want my backyard to get its share of the pork.

And yeah, I do like big events and the opportunities to hawk overpriced crap to visitors—especially when I know that they’ll be gone in three weeks, tops. If a local doesn’t want to be around the crowds and chaos of the Olympics, they’ve got a way out: Rent their place out to visitors, and use the proceeds to take a vacation if they can.

If the games take a financial bath, it’s true that I (and every other British Columbian) will be on the hook for losses incurred during the games’ operation. However, the Vancouver bid book’s assumptions and contingencies weren’t unreasonable, and it looks like the TV money for 2010 will already be higher than forecast by the IOC. That’s a little breathing room. The Games will never turn a straight profit when capital expenditures are factored in, but the result of that capital spending will be felt in the City, and not much of what will be built is likely to turn into a white elephant.

Finally, I considered how the city fathers would deal with the run-up to the Games. Expo 86 brought visitors and investment to Vancouver, but it was also marked by many evictions of downtown hotel residents as the hotel owners converted their places from cheap digs to rooms for the Expo visitors. Most of the people now serving on Vancouver city council are the same people who worked through the displacement of locals that came with Expo, and who have made it their business to make sure that the mass evictions don’t get repeated in 2010. With this city government in place, I’m more confident that those negative effects of a big event like the Olympics will be minimized and mitigated.

Other priorities

Much of the opposition to the Games was based on the argument that the money that will be spent on the Olympics is better spent on social services. Maybe that’s so, but in reality, there was no choice. As far as the federal and provincial governments were concerned, this money would go to the Olympics or not be spent at all. Maybe with a social-democratic government, the discussion of bread v. circuses might be relevant—or not. Vancouver’s bid was started, blessed, and bankrolled by the former BC NDP government.

Vancouver’s other needs won’t be ignored because of the circus coming to town for a few weeks in 6 1/2 years. If anything, local authorities will be able to extract more money from the governments with the real taxing and spending power. The pitch? Very simple: “Look, guys: The whole world will be watching this town for 17 days. We need to expand (fill in the blank) in the inner city so that we don’t look unpresentable!” Then watch the chequebook open, whether it’s for employment training, drug rehab, grants to restore buildings that have seen better days, you name it.

I can’t say that the Games will be the panacea that some of its boosters (like CKNW talker and CTV news anchor Bill Good) claim. To hear the more strident Games supporters’ claims, you’d think that Vancouver getting the Games would assure me a steady stream of high-paying jobs, a naked Kirsten Dunst in my private hot tub and a mountain of cocaine presented to me on a silver platter. It won’t be that great. What it will give Vancouver is leverage that it can use to build a better city.

continued next post; Blogger is being picky about big posts again... use the permalink for this post if you're linking to this article.
Comments: Post a Comment

Reports, opinions, columns, and anything else on this site, are © 2002-2003 Ian King unless otherwise noted. Permission granted to use material on this site for non-commercial purposes provided that the work is attributed to the original author. All other uses require specific permission of the original author. Contact weblog owner with any inquiries.

Feel free to link to this web log. The management likes getting lots of traffic.