Five more sleeps until the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games opening ceremonies.
Now, don’t get me wrong – oh, go ahead and get me wrong, if you want to. I don’t care. But, just for the record, I do enjoy the Olympics, both winter and summer. Ever since I first discovered their existence, for the 1972 Munich Summer Games, I have religiously watched the events on TV as much as I could. I have learned to appreciate all kinds of sports. I have been to the Munich site. I have visited the Calgary site (Winter 1988). I even made a pilgrimage to Olympia, Greece last summer to the site of the original games, for heaven’s sake!
Is that proof enough? I like the Olympic games!
I just don’t like them here and now.
I don’t think we can afford such an extravagance right now, not when our government is cutting expenditures everywhere, particularly our provincial government. The economy went down the drain last year, taxes have been raised, people lost their jobs left right and centre, social programs have been decimated, health and education budgets have been slashed to the bone (and in some cases, to the point where health care facilities and schools have been closed down) – yet somehow, the province of British Columbia and the country of Canada can put on a gazillion-dollar two-week party.
Personally, I had no idea it would cost quite so much to host a world-class sporting event! I hadn’t a clue how much disruption there would be downtown, with all the road closures and restrictions. I just never thought about it before.
The only inkling I ever had was when the city of Montréal finally paid off its Olympic debt from the 1976 Summer Games – thirty years later. And I thought that was maybe the result of poor fiscal management.
I don’t think so now. I think that this is just the way the Olympic games have evolved. They’re just bloody expensive to host! And tickets are either stratospherically priced or impossible to get, so most of us will be sitting at home watching the competition on TV, just like everyone else around the globe.
What does Vancouver get out of all this hoop and la, anyway? Well, we got an enhanced highway up to Whistler – the cost of which is apparently NOT included in the Olympic expenditures because our government has said that the highway needed upgrades anyway, so it would have had to be done in any case. We also got our SkyTrain rapid transit system out to the airport finally, after almost 25 years in operation. I wonder if the government is putting the same spin on that expense as with the highway to Whistler? We got a few new buildings and upgrades to existing buildings that will be hosting various events – many of which will be converted to other purposes after the Games are over. Again, a lot of this may have been needed anyway, but I question whether or not it was all needed at the same time. Normally, governments budget for things like skating rinks and housing a little each year, not all within a couple of years with the accompanying whack to the public pocketbook.
But the government cannot control the weather. And in Vancouver, we are currently experiencing a rather warm and mild winter, with a consequence of no snow at Cypress Mountain. Cypress is in the suburb of North Vancouver and is the site of the snowboarding competitions. So, more expense in the form of helicoptering and trucking snow in from nearby, higher mountains as well as from the interior of BC.
The powers-that-be are expecting a huge influx of tourists who will spend, spend, spend during the two weeks of the Games. Will they spend enough to offset the enormous amount of money that the people of BC and Canada are spending to put on the Games? Who knows? And will Vancouver become the vacation destination of choice for all those people who will be watching on TV? Will there be an economic spin-off for years to come? Again, who knows?
I do not have tickets for any of the events, nor do I plan to go downtown and check out the Olympic frenzy that is predicted over the next two weeks. I will be watching and cheering on Canadian athletes in front of my TV, however. I will be going with the kids and staff of my school to see the Olympic torch relay this week, as it passes nearby. And I will think about the fact that I will likely be paying for all of this through my taxes for the rest of my life.
Go Canada go!