Government report touts 2010 Winter Olympics spending

$2.3 billion to provincial GDP falls short $10 billion prediction

Whatever money British Columbians spent on mugs of Molson or Muk Muk mascot magnets during the 2010 Winter Olympics was not counted in a taxpayer-funded economic impacts study.

"Much of the spending by B.C. residents during the Games was not truly incremental, said the seventh and final edition of Games Effect by PricewaterhouseCoopers. A large portion would have otherwise been spent on other forms of entertainment or activities somewhere else in the province (e.g., ski resorts, museums, festivals, theatres).

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PwC, which was paid $1.9 million by the B.C. and federal governments, estimated the Games boosted the gross domestic product by $2.3 billion over the 2003 to 2010 period. The figure is substantially less than the $10 billion boom that ex-premier Gordon Campbell and ex-finance and Olympics Minister Colin Hansen touted for much of the last decade. PwC said the provinces GDP in 2010 was $154 billion and the incremental impact of the Games was "expected to be generated by federal government spending in the province and investment from other out-of-province sources.

Incremental VANOC and third-party construction was $1.26 billion, but "the majority of the third-party spending is due to the City of Vancouver assuming responsibility for funding and completing the Vancouver Olympic Village."

The Games were not a shield against the recession, but instead a cushion.

While the estimated stimulus provided by Games-related spending in 2009 and 2010 was not enough to prevent the B.C. economy from experiencing its most serious recession since 1982, it did stem the depth of the recession and supported employment that might otherwise have disappeared, the report said.

Over the seven-year period, the tourism industry saw a $228 million, Olympic-related increase from $70 million spent on food and beverage, $69 million on lodging, $33 million on transportation and $18 million on shopping. A never-before seen spike in hotel occupancy and prices in February 2010 in Metro Vancouver and Whistler may never be seen again. Since the Games, the tourism industry has struggled from global economic woes, the high Canadian dollar and the HST.

In B.C., there were 28,300 more tourism jobs from 2003 to 2008, but the industry added just 500 new jobs in 2010. International overnight travellers to Canada fell by 14 million from 2003 to 2010 to almost 25 million. There were one million more foreigners, but the number of Americans plummeted by 15 million.

"Overall, the total number of overnight international travellers and amount of visitor spending in Canada do not appear to have been significantly affected by the 2010 Winter Games in the 2003 to 2010 period, the report said.

PwC did not consider the so-called aversion effect in which a mega-event displaces residents and regular visitors of a host city and causes locals to adversely alter their spending habits. College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. found Utah retailers lost business during the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics.

The report was published Thursday, three days before the Pan American Games end in Guadalajara, Mexico and Toronto is handed the flag to host the next ones in 2015.

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