No apology for ignoring recession: VANOC

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER - The chief financial officer of the Vancouver Olympics claims it would have made no difference if the organization’s May 2007 business plan had anticipated a recession.

“I don't think it would've changed reality to have assumed a recession,” said John McLaughlin. “To be honest with you, most people would've probably thought it was unrealistic to do so back then, because that's not what the economists were telling us.”

The VANOC business plan assumed there would not be a recession. Over the past year, it received an extra $100 million -- including 80 percent from taxpayers -- to cope with staging the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

On Friday, the British Columbia government admitted it spent almost $50 million to bail out VANOC. The federal government added $30.7 million last fall after the International Olympic Committee put up $22 million.

“A few of our partners thought the Games could be enhanced in a very significant way if they made bit more of an investment,” McLaughlin said.

VANOC stopped issuing quarterly financial reports last December, but McLaughlin said “we think we’re going to be able to accomplish” a balanced budget. The final report is due this fall.

Funds are still being collected from sponsors and licensees and some contracts have yet to be reconciled, he said. Make-whole agreements with the private operators of venue sites Whistler Blackcomb and Cypress Mountain will be finalized this month or next.

The provincial government budgeted $600 million for its share of the Olympics, but that rose to $765 million because of a 2009 deal to offload security costs to Ottawa. The $925.2 million of provincial costs does not include Crown corporations or agencies that were sponsors or service providers.

“The governments and their agencies went into this feet-first, with no accountability whatsoever to taxpayers and taxpayers as a result are being left with these huge bills,” said Maureen Bader of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation. “The money is now spent, so what we need to do is learn from this as taxpayers and not allow the government to go forward with these kinds of spending projects again.”

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