Having spent the last week in beautiful British Columbia (well, Burnaby and Vancouver), I’ve really come to appreciate the size of the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. At times, it felt as if I couldn’t walk a block in downtown Vancouver without seeing an Olympic logo, or a display of Quatchi, Miga, and Sumi peering through a storefront window or from a billboard perch. While it’s exciting that British Colombians and Canadians are hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, I’m torn on how I feel about the games.
1) Is $6 billion for a one-time event a giant misuse of resources? The Olympics cost a lot of money, and with funding also coming from the Federal Government, it is clear that all Canadians will be paying a share of the Olympic sized-costs (including almost a billion dollars for security costs — which equals the amount of Alberta’s 2009 Budget Deficit). Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is also worried that Vancouver will be saddled with even more Olympic costs as the city struggles to deal with an increase in gang violence.
These kind of costs strengthen the argument for the creation of two permanent Olympic host cities that would host the games and infrastructure every four years (one each for the Winter and Summer games).
2) An Olympic-sized economic cocoon. There is a strong argument that the Olympic-related construction and investment in Vancouver has temporarily cocooned much of the Lower Mainland from the economic recession that has hit most of North America. Though this may be temporary, it’s hard to argue that the 2010 games aren’t providing a lot of people with jobs this year.
3) I actually enjoy the Winter Olympics. I offered some heavy criticism of the previous Olympic Games, but unlike the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, which were hosted in the free speech loving People’s Republic of China (severe sarcasm alert!), cyber-dissidents like myself have yet to be rounded up for offering criticisms of our glorious governing leaders.
4) The politics of the Vancouver Olympics are fascinating. Depending on the results of the May 12, 2009 BC Provincial election, the Premier of British Columbia in 2010 could be a cheerleader or a critic of the Games. In the spirit of partisan maneuvering, BC Liberal Finance Minister Colin Hansen has already begun to point out the nightmares that may become a reality if NDP leader Carole James becomes Premier later this year. The games will be happening no matter who is sitting behind the Premier’s desk, but it would surely be a lot less awkward if they were supportive.