Did BC throw a $6 billion Olympic party for itself?

August 13, 2010


Simon Fraser University associate professor Kennedy Stewart has written an erudite piece in the Vancouver Sun examining the extent to which British Columbia tourism benefited from hosting the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

As noted in a July 17 post on The Canary, PrincewaterhouseCoopers released a report on the economic impact of the Games in 2009. The BC government has been making hay of the report ever since by selectively interpreting and disingenuously representing its figures.

Regarding tourism, the PricewaterhouseCoopers report states that ‘the hosting of the 2010 Winter Games does not appear to have directly drawn significant numbers of visitors into BC and Canada between 2003 and 2008’ but predicts that ‘visitor numbers are expected to increase significantly during the Games.’

Dr. Stewart researched Vancouver International Airport (YVR) passenger figures and discovered that YVR passenger traffic declined approximately 8% in the month of February from 2008 to 2010. Of the 1.25 million passengers who travelled in 2010, only 22% had an international destination – 27,000 fewer than in 2008. In other words, there was a proportional rise in domestic air traffic and a net drop in overall air traffic.

Relying upon these figures, Dr. Stewart suggests that the majority of the 2010 Winter Games’ spectators lived within driving distance of the Olympic venues. He notes that this theory needs confirmation but, if it is true, then ‘British Columbians spent $6 billion to have a giant party for themselves.’

This is compounded with the forecast reported in The Globe and Mail that Whistler was to be victim of an ‘Olympics aversion factor’ and experience a 68% drop in skier visits in February 2010 (actual figures have unsurprisingly not been released) and, even further, wasn’t anticipating an Olympic-related business boost.

If this is all true then British Columbia isn’t only The Best Place on Earth (its self-proclaimed and immodest brand) having just hosted what IOC President Jacques Rogge described as an ‘excellent and very friendly Games’ but these are yet more indicators that BC succeeded in pulling off the biggest economic con job in its history.

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