Feb 13 2009
As a guy who can’t watch any sport for more than 5 minutes without yawning, I have sympathy on a gut level with those who knock the 2010 Winter Olympics as a surreal waste of resources.
But I also recognize that the vast majority of Canadians do like sports in general and that there are significant benefits for hosting a sporting event like the Olympics specifically. Nebulous benefits like “putting the city on the map” can actually translate into tourism dollars supporting local workers. Getting the attention of the world puts pressure on higher levels of government to pour money into our area to build infrastructure that otherwise would have no chance of existing. Creating jobs and building venues for sports activities that many people seem to enjoy are not bad things.
There’s a sense amongst anti-Olympics protesters that in a zero-sum game of government spending, any dollar spent on the Olympic oval, for instance, is a dollar that doesn’t go towards, say, feeding the homeless. But that ignores the fact that a lot of this money from higher levels of government wouldn’t have gone to anything if the Olympics wasn’t in town.
Secondly, you could apply the spending argument to anything; why spend dollars on roads and bridges when you’ve got people sleeping in the alleys in the downtown eastside — or Kitsilano? Striking a budget balance where all priorities get what they need is an art, not a science.
Are our priorities wrong on this? Given that we’re not contemplating an Olympics that even comes close to the titanic spending for the Beijing games ($42 billion, in a country where a good proportion of the population still lives in grinding poverty), I don’t know that our spending on the Olympics is a problem. But I’d love to hear from readers.