WATCH: Taxpayers funded much of the infrastructure for the 2010 Olympics. Ted Chernecki takes a look at that investment in the long term.
Nearly five years ago today, Vancouver, Whistler and Richmond were in the throes of frantic, last-minute preparations for the biggest international event to take place in the city since Expo 86.
Seventeen days and just under $2 billion later, many consider the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, which kicked off on Feb. 12, to have been a resounding success. Others, however, remain skeptical about the lasting economic benefits of large sporting events like the Olympic Games.
Ahead of the Winter Games, the cost of building many of the facilities and infrastructure came under scrutiny with their combined price tag running into the billions of dollars.
Five years later, projects like Olympic Village, Vancouver Convention Centre, Richmond Oval, Canada Line, Hillcrest Community Centre and the improved Sea-To-Sky Highway are in regular use, a far cry from what happened in Sochi, Russia where much of the Olympic build-up has now been all but abandoned.
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But last year the Richmond Oval received $2.2 million in subsidies to cover operating losses. The money comes from a $110-million, taxpayer-funded Olympic legacy trust. It was set up before the Games to ensure some venues didn’t become white elephants.
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Former VANOC CEO John Furlong says the money was well spent.
“We’ve created the best outcome you possibly can,” he says. “These venues anywhere in the world are difficult to run. They’re complex, challenging technical venues that require very significant expertise to manage.”
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Harder to measure is what the 2010 Games brought to the Canadian psyche and what it brought in indirect investments like tourism.
“We were looking at it from a five- to 10-year window,” says Walt Judas of Tourism Vancouver. “We had a record-setting year in 2014 and 2015 is shaping up to be the same way.”
But Olympic critics say the legacy of the Games is more complicated than that.
“The best estimates are the impact on the tourism sector was quite limited,” says SFU economist Marvin Shaffer. “The incremental impacts on construction were limited, bearing in mind that while a lot of money was spent, it was spent at the expense of other spending because it came from either municipal, federal or provincial governments.”
-with files from Ted Chernecki