--> Getting It Right: Olympics - the new social planners?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Olympics - the new social planners?

Over the stormy winter we’ve all just endured, the dream of 2010 has faded a little. Perhaps it was the driving rain on dark February afternoons or maybe it was the sight of ancient toppled trees lining the causeway in Stanley Park, but the Olympic fever has become muted through the combination of a nasty winter, overwhelming expectations and a lack of concrete information.

Of course, the dimming of excitement wasn’t helped by 2010 events plagued by protesters, who went as far as to damage the countdown clock located in the front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery and defy court orders in the Eagleridge Bluff’s debacle.

Somehow, on the road to the Olympic Games, the monstrous sporting spectacle became responsible for every social ill and poor government planning decision. Hauling away Grandma Betty Kracwcyzk in handcuffs for her illegal actions – let’s pin that on the Olympics. Homelessness in Vancouver, which has been a multi-government problem for years – must be the Olympics.

But the corner has been turned this week and organizers should hope the momentum gathered this summer will carry them through next winter’s nasty weather.

The long-awaited budget and business plan for the 2010 Games has finally been released, putting to rest nagging fears of cost overruns and taxpayers “on the hook”.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a doozy of a $1.62 billion budget. (Yes, billion). The budget beats the estimated costs from the bid budget by almost double but the organizers, led by Jack Poole, have managed to keep the government financial commitment the same by reaching out to sponsors, squeezing more from the IOC in television dollars and employing innovative revenue generation techniques.

As with most billion dollar budgets, there is something for everyone to criticize, but examined in aggregate, the budget (posted at www.vancouver2010.com) is conservative, well-considered and leaves lots of room for last minute cost increases – which are bound to occur.

Even critics will have to admit that the organizers have done their job and done it well.

But let’s be honest, most Olympic detractors are never going to support the games. They have an ideological opposition to building community in this manner and loath the idea of corporate sponsorship, sports (all that sweat and testosterone) and leveraging a global event for the benefit of a region.

They will continue to push the 2010 Games to provide for social programs that are outside their mandate, a no-win situation for the Olympics and a disingenuous ploy for the social activists.

But with the budget out of the way, the rest of us can breathe a sigh of relief and start thinking about how to get our hands on some gold medal round hockey tickets.

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