The price is alright
Hosting the Olympic Games isn’t cheap, but the experience is priceless
Helen Aikenhead // Features Editor
The Olympic Winter Games have come and gone once again and the Paralympic Games are just beginning. Like every Olympic year, as the season draws near its conclusion, people start to wonder what mark will be left on the host city. To hold an event of such magnitude is no small feat and certainly no small financial commitment, but it is crucial to remember this – cost and value are two entirely different things.
In some cases, the cost of the Games may be more noticeable, such as in Sochi, the 2014 host city, where many of the costly structures built for Olympic events now lie vacant. A key issue with the cost of hosting is not just that it’s expensive, but that the expenses are rarely estimated accurately before they begin, making the financial reports appear all the more shocking when all is said and done.
But there are also cases, such as our own run at hosting in 2010, when hosting results in unbelievable payoffs. Results from the final report done by consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, following the Vancouver Games showed that in BC, gross domestic product alone reached $2.3 billion. The same report found that 45,000 jobs were created, and that the tourism industry, which was not excelling prior to the Games, welcomed 650,000 guests across BC in February 2010.
The Vancouver Games have been recorded as one of the most watched in history, and most acclaimed internationally. There is no telling to what extent the lasting impacts on our wildly lucrative tourism industry is owed to the Olympics. In and around the city, some of these costs went towards repairs to the Sea to Sky Highway, construction of the Canada Line and world-class sporting arenas, just to name a few of the continuously utilized benefits. So, it’s safe to say that when it works, it works tremendously.
But there is so much more to hosting what is undoubtedly the most esteemed athletic event in the world than coming out financially unscathed. Simply put, to host is an honour. To welcome thousands of the world’s finest athletes, who have dedicated their entire lives to perfect their craft and push their bodies to strengths unimaginable to most, is an honour. And to have your entire city transform into a world stage where history is made over and over again, is an honour. None of these things, awarded regardless of economic gains to the hosting city, are feats that can be be measured monetarily. They’re measured by the lasting memory of the Games.
When people talk about the Sochi Olympics, they’re not asking how the Bolshoy Ice Dome is faring. What they want to know is where you were when you saw Captain Canada, Marie-Philip Poulin, make history scoring her second consecutive golden goal in a gold medal final. A goal following the one she made just minutes before that, which tied it up with less than sixty seconds on the clock in regulation time. Before the eyes of millions, those final minutes reconfirmed what many already knew – that Poulin is one of the greatest athletes of our time. A moment like that? Priceless. When the main stadium built in PyeongChang is torn down after this year’s Games come to an end – its size far surpasses the needs of the city’s small population – people won’t remember it as unnecessary spending. Instead, they’ll recall the time when the stands were overflowing with not only their own population, but the rest of the world together, as they watched greatness unfold.