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article imageOp-Ed: Vancouver Knocking On Bankruptcy’s Door?

By James Raider     Jan 12, 2009 in Politics
Much of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland population was notified by new Mayor Gregor Robertson, Friday evening, that the City of Vancouver taxpayers would be on the hook for all of $1billion required to complete the Olympic Village.
So much for promises of a 2010 Olympic bonanza.
While Vancouver and British Columbia taxpayer concerns for such grandiose ventures as “Olympic hosting” were quieted with commitments in 2006 that the Olympic Village would be developed at no risk, it now appears that such is not the case. The Winter Olympic exercise is turning into one long series of poor decisions by politicians and their corporate friends. Poor decisions, that is, if you are a taxpayer. Otherwise it has been a boon to construction trades, and a potential blessing to those companies fortunate enough to have been picked to provide services to visitors and participants. At least that is the hope.
Vancouver is now seeking assistance from Federal and Provincial Governments to refinance the Olympic Village. It needs to renegotiate a $750 million loan deal with the Fortress Investment Group, the Wall Street financial group. The climate for doing is not favorable and will be a sentence imposed on Vancouver taxpayers for having allowed elected officials to lead them into this financial black hole.
Canada has had some beauts when it comes to Olympic hosting. Quebecers still reel from the damage imposed on them by the monstrosity they built to house their 1976 version of international gamesmanship and athleticism. The Olympic stadium’s roof never worked but the incurred debt took 30 years to repay. It remains a definition for “white elephant,” with a staggering $1.6 billion price tag. This burden overshadows Calgary’s Winter Olympics of 1988 which produced loses of only a few hundred million dollars.
As the country heads into a period of economic uncertainty, success of the Vancouver Winter Olympics is far from a foregone conclusion. During a period of giddy expansion, and a historically outrageous real estate bubble, the city took on a burden it may not be able to pay for. The global financial climate will not be a very accommodating factor as visitors will likely refrain from leaving much cash behind.
The total exposure for these Vancouver Winter Olympics remains unclear, but loses may run into hundreds of millions, perhaps exceeding a billion. Vancouver taxpayers were expecting break even, or better. The city ventured into the business of real estate speculation, hoping that the Olympic Village would become a condo harvest of gold. That market is now collapsing. Promises are so easily made when predicting future profitability of any project, but they are so rarely delivered on.
The International Olympic Committee should once and for all decide on a permanent location for each of the Winter and Summer Olympics. The costs of infrastructure can be shared by participating nations. It would prove more consistent with the assumed Olympic ideals than the current imposition of unmanageable costs conveyed onto taxpayers through lies and promises of profits, increased tourism, international exposure, etc.
Note: A live video stream will be provided on the internet from Vancouver City Hall this afternoon, when Penny Ballem, the city manager, will provide an update on this developing and expensive frustration.
James Raider writes The Pacific Gate Post
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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