They’re here. Today. Finally.
So knock yourself out. It cost you enough.
Two weeks from today, the Games will be played, the medals counted, the flags waved.
And when the cheering stops, then comes the bill.
The other shoe, the provincial budget, drops on March 2. There’s already a forecast deficit of $1.7 billion for this year alone, and estimates have a way of growing into even bigger realities. One thing is certain. We’ll be paying for these 2010 Olympics for many, many years to come.
And with every cut to health or education, someone will ask, “Was it worth it?”
A long time ago, Victoria tossed out the idea that we could enjoy $10 billion in direct benefits from the 2010 Olympics. Post-recession (oops), PricewaterhouseCoopers was able to peg the direct benefits in the run-up to the games to a less splendid $1 billion.
For the next few weeks, hungry sales clerks will hope to add to the tally as Olympians from Norway to North Dakota comb through the made-in-China Mounties and other souvenir debris.
But it will take a while to come up with a final answer to that question, as it did for Expo 86, the last time the world came to our door. Turns out the world liked Vancouver so much it moved in and built a megatropolis out of a sleepy city by the sea. Long after they put the floating McDonald’s barge in drydock we can point to the skyline, SkyTrain and sky-high real estate prices as the legacy of Expo 86. What’s not to like?
Vancouver can’t get any more unaffordable than it already is? You just watch! If we get a few sunny days in a row during these Olympics, the part of the world that didn’t stay after Expo 86 will turn up, tooth brush in hand, looking for a place to stay. And we’ll add another million newcomers to the waterfront. If you sell real estate or designer kitchens, that’s a good thing.
There’s a school of thought that these Olympics will be our last super spectacle, because there’s just no more room to accommodate any more newcomers to Vancouver — in fact, along the whole I-5 corridor.
Truth is, we’re addicted to these spectacles. The Olympics will just fuel the urge for more.
This is one big playground. If you add up the new Sea-to-Sky Highway, the new Port Mann Bridge, the billion-dollar convention centre, it’s clear we’re just getting started. On the day the Olympics begin, I suspect the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed aren’t asking themselves: “Was it worth it?”
They’re asking: “What’s Next?”
– Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;