February 11, 2009 2:09 pm

Timeline: The evolution of the 2010 Olympic budget


The budget for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver has come a long way from its original – and far smaller – incarnation. Initially pegged at under $1 billion, the official cost of hosting the Games has mushroomed to more than $2 billion.

Not included in those costs are major infrastructure projects that will play a big role in the operation of the Games. Including projects such as upgrades to the Sea to Sky Highway and Vancouver Convention Centre, as well as construction of an enhanced transit system called the Canada Line, the number could be as high as $6 billion.

Many of the venues are over-budget, while the Athletes Village in Vancouver is in disarray, and its cost may have to be covered completely by Vancouver taxpayers.

Here is a look at the evolution of the Olympic budget, from the initial proposal to the present day:


December 15

Vancouver businessman and former owner of the Vancouver Canucks, Arthur Griffiths, and Tourism Vancouver officials talk to reporters about the idea of staging the Games. The initial estimate for the cost of hosting the Olympics is $927 million.


February 5

The Vancouver/Whistler 2010 Bid Society goes before Vancouver City Council to solicit support. Council votes unanimously to endorse the bid, but says that no city funds will be used to develop the proposal.

September 21

Arthur Griffiths, now the chair of the Vancouver/Whistler 2010 Bid Society, unveils his official plan. The overall price tag has risen to $971 million, but Griffiths argues the province would rake in $1.2 billion in Olympic-related revenue.

November 12

Then-B.C. Premier Glen Clark signs Participation Agreement with the City of Vancouver, protecting the city against cost overruns, damages or losses.

December 1

The Canadian Olympic Committee endorses the Vancouver bid for the 2010 Games. Griffiths tells the media that $242 million will be spent on venues.


March 9

TELUS signs on as the first major corporate supporter of the Bid, committing $3 million in funds and services.


August 15

The B.C. government, along with several provincial crown corporations, announces it will put $9.1 million toward the Bid.

December 20

Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps announces that Ottawa will match the province’s $9.1 million.


May 31

The Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation, which replaced the Bid Society, submits its responses to the IOC Bid Questionnaire. The document gives budget breakdowns for venues, now pegged at $470 million.

June 7

Copps and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell each commit $310 million to cover the capital costs of preparing venues for 2010, in the event that Canada is chosen to host the Games.

July 23

Vancouver City Council approves a $300,000 grant from the city’s contingency reserve to the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation by forgiving a loan for that amount given in 2000. Council also approves another $450,000 to be used for security, planning, cultural initiatives, staffing and administration of the bid.


January 9

The Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation presents an official Bid Book to the IOC, a 460-page document that expands on the Bid Questionnaire submitted in 2002.

The venue budget is $470 million and operating budget is $1.3 billion.

B.C. Auditor General Wayne Strelioff says the budget will require close management and a favourable economy.

February 22

The city of Vancouver holds an Olympic referendum. Voter turnout is 50 per cent, and 64 per cent of votes back the bid. The referendum costs the city $575,000.

July 2

The IOC awards the Games to Vancouver. The Bid cost $34 million.


July 1

Construction on the Canada Line begins. The line is not officially an Olympic project, but is seen as a critical mode of transportation for the flow of huge expected crowds. The 16-station line links Vancouver, Vancouver International Airport, and Richmond (location of Olympic Oval); the cost is pegged at $1.9 billion.

September 1

A $600-million upgrade begins on the Sea to Sky Highway. The highway links venues in Vancouver and Whistler, but the project is also not an official Olympic project, and is not included in the Olympic budget.

October 18

Bell becomes an official partner of the Vancouver 2010 Games, committing $200 million: $90 million in cash, $60 million in equipment and $50 million for Games-related marketing.

November 22, 2004

The first Olympic financial statements are released, dating back to the incorporation of the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) on September 30, 2003. Statements show $35.4 million spent on venues during that time, including $30 million put in trust for the Vancouver Athletes Village. Operating expenses are at $6 million.


February 3

Construction of a First Nations Cultural Centre in Whistler is announced, using $3 million from VANOC and corporate sponsors including Bell. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada commits $4.92 million and the B.C. government commits $3 million. The centre will be used for hospitality events during the Games.

December 9

VANOC releases updated fiscal statement showing $42.8 million spent on venues and $23.6 million on operating expenses.


February 3

VANOC CEO John Furlong releases an updated Olympic venue budget, with a venue cost of $580 million.

Furlong blames the increase from the original $470 million figure on rising construction costs and a shortage of skilled workers in the Vancouver building industry.

April 5

Millennium Development Corp. puts forward a bid of $193 million for land on the southeast shore of False Creek in Vancouver, where the Athletes Village will be located. The amount is significantly larger than other offers.

The city of Vancouver agrees to lend $30 million for start-up costs of the development.

July 14

Cesare Vaciago, CEO of the 2006 Torino Games, publicly criticizes the 2010 venue construction budget as being too small. The venue budget for Torino was more than double that of Vancover’s: $1.4 billion.

September 14

B.C. acting Auditor General Arn van Iersel releases a report that puts the true cost of hosting the Olympics at $2.5 billion, with the province on the hook for $1.5 billion.

The province says it will only spend the budgeted $600 million.

October 25

VANOC releases updated fiscal statements, estimating that construction of venues will be more than half-finished at the end of the year.

The report says that venues are on time and on budget. Venue costs are covered by government sources and operating costs are covered by private sources.

VANOC acknowledges that this could pose a risk for operating expenses, but CEO John Furlong says the contingency of $66.8 million included in the plan is adequate.


May 8

VANOC releases a business plan including an operating budget of $1.63 billion and a venue construction budget of $580 million.

June 26

Vancouver City council is told at an in-camera meeting that Olympic Village developer Millenium Corp. was in “anticipatory default,” meaning it would probably not meet financial obligations to the city.

Council guarantees $200 million of a $750-million loan that Fortress Investment Group gave to Millenium. The city is now obligated to complete the project if Millenium does not.

July 27

Internal RCMP documents are made public, showing the security budget is too small. The Vancouver Integrated Security Unit was given $175 million to provide security at the Games, but it says it could require five times that amount.

August 17

Construction problems and requests by the IOC to house more athletes in Whistler have tripled the cost of the Whistler Athletes Centre. A provincial government report is released saying VANOC must use half of the $53.5-million provincial contingency fund to cover costs.

October 22

Rona gives $5 million for the Whistler Athletes Centre. Originally estimated to cost $16 million, the centre is now pegged at $46 million.


February 14

The B.C. government announces paid leave or extra vacation time for civil servants who volunteer at the Games.

February 22

Federal minister David Emerson announces that Ottawa will give $20 million to VANOC for the opening ceremonies, half the total estimated cost of the event.

February 26

Federal budget earmarks $25 million for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic torch relays.

April 17

The Richmond Oval announces that algae and fungus are growing in the roof of the structure, and that $2 million in repairs are needed. The $178-million structure is now triple the cost of the original $60-million estimate.

September 4

A $65-million upgrade package is announced for B.C. Place Stadium.

October 3

Former federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day says security for the Games could cost between $400 million and $1 billion, up from the 2002 estimate of $175 million.

October 14

Vancouver City Council agrees at an in-camera meeting to advance another $100 million to Millenium Corp. The city’s total obligation to Millenium is now over $500 million.

The city also agrees to hire a company to oversee Millenium’s development, at a cost of $450,000.

October 23

Intrawest, the company that will run Whistler ski hills during the Games, completes a deal to refinance $1.7 billion of debt mere hours before deadline, ending speculation about the company’s health. Intrawest is owned by Millenium lender Fortress Investment Group.

December 9

VANOC responds to economic conditions by agreeing to cut funds for accommodation, banners, and other aesthetic elements of the Olympics.

At this time the budget is at $580 million for venues and $1.62 billion for operating costs. Requests for tickets exceed $345 million.

December 12

B.C. Auditor general John Doyle charges that the provincial government is hiding the full cost of the Games, and still will not include the billion-dollar Sea-to-Sky Highway improvements, the $900-million trade and convention centre expansion and the $2-billion Canada Line as Olympic-related expenses.

Two previous auditors also believed the projects should be included in the budget.

The improvements to the convention centre, which will accommodate the media during the Games, were originally slated at $495 million.

December 15

VANOC gives a budget update saying it is running a $65-million budget deficit, but remains hopeful that books will be balanced in the lead-up to the Games.


January 9

Mayor Gregor Robertson announces that Vancouver taxpayers might have to pay the entire cost of the Athletes Village development. The total cost of the development is now $875 million, $125 million over budget.

January 12

Vancouver city officials seek emergency powers to borrow up to $458 million to finish the construction of the Athletes Village. The federal government says it will not provide support for the project.

January 18

The City of Vancouver gets the green light from the B.C. legislature to borrow money to complete the Athletes Village.

January 30

VANOC releases recent revisions to the budget, showing an increase of $127 million.

The committee cut funds in some areas but added to others, while increasing its contingency fund to $77 million.

Changes include the cancellation of evening medal ceremonies in Whistler, cutting marketing and communications budget by $5 million, technology budget by $6.5 million and pumping $60 million into transportation, accommodation, Games services and sport programs.

VANOC CEO John Furlong says the budget reflects strong financial planning. Furlong and VANOC executive vice-president of marketing Dave Cobb express frustration over media criticism surrounding issues VANOC is not responsible for, such as the Athletes Village and the over-budget Vancouver Convention Centre.

They note that these are not Olympic projects, but public projects that VANOC is leasing for the Olympics.

Furlong says VANOC will spend $1.3 billion in the local economy over the next year.

The operating budget now totals $1.76 billion; the venue construction budget totals $580 million.

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