Friday, September 15, 2006
All the fudging, sleight-of-hand and obfuscation ... blather, even!
So the Winter Olympics in 2010 are liable to cost us $2.5 billion rather than the $600 million Premier Gordon Campbell has assured us, the acting auditor general says.
We're not surprised. We're not even all that upset, which says more about the importance we attach to the Games than it does about our opinion of Campbell and his government:We think he was right to bid for them, and having succeeded, we wish the Games themselves much success.
What we don't like is all the fudging, sleight-of-hand and obfuscation that has surrounded the Winter Olympics from the start. Not many of us were convinced when Campbell swore in November 2001 that "the Games will pay for themselves." Not many of us bought all that blather about long-term economic impacts for the province or lasting legacies, although we did hope the Games would inspire some young British Columbians to ski, skate or slide higher, faster and stronger.
And as Olympic fever sets in, more of us will be willing to make up any shortfall. Acting Auditor General Arn van Iersel has assured us we'll have to.
He said provincial taxpayers, on whose behalf the provincial government has agreed to cover any shortfall, could bear extra costs if Vanoc, the organizing committee, can't meet its expense and revenue targets and hasn't built in contingencies to cover such things as inflation, exchange-rate fluctuations, the state of the economy, "world threats" and the ever-unpredictable weather.
Taxpayers, van Iersel says, will also indemnify the city of Vancouver for its losses and for Vancouver's agreement to indemnify the International Olympic Committee for revenue losses or damages it has to pay to, among others, Olympic sponsors and broadcasters, if those losses can be blamed on Vanoc or Vancouver.
They will have to contribute more to Vanoc if necessary to get venues completed on time, and will have to top up the $76 million left in the provincial contingency fund for items outside the Games budget for things such as security and medical costs.
Van Iersel said there are even risks in not being able, under IOC rules, to begin marketing for the much-touted economic benefits until after the Beijing Summer Games in 2008. He also questioned whether the benefits in the business plan can be realized.
A lot of us think a couple of weeks of top-class athletes competing here while the world watches is worth at least part of the risk. But what is really galling is the apparent feeling in government and Vanoc that it's none of our business what the total costs might be.
We want to know what costs are Olympic costs, we want to know what other guarantees have been made on our behalf by Crown corporations and other ministries, and we want to see Vanoc's secret budget.
We can't wait until 2010. We need to know all this before 2009, election year.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006
It has a nice ring to it: "We want to know ..." and "We need to know" ... and "We can't wait until 2010 ..."
Will this wholesome attitude prevail into September 18, 2006 and 4 December 2006 and beyond?