B.C. government bailed out VANOC

BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:48 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- The British Columbia government spent $325 million more on the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics than originally promised.

The $925 million bill for taxpayers was disclosed in an unaudited report published Friday and included a bailout of almost $50 million for the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, which was rocked by the recession.

The province stepped in to help VANOC pay for transportation and accommodation and to truck snow into Cypress Mountain after El Nino-related weather melted snow.

When VANOC was hit by sponsor cutbacks amid the worst recession since the Great Depression, chief financial officer John McLaughlin appealed for provincial help in a March 26, 2009 letter obtained by QMI. Last August the International Olympic Committee pledged up to $22 million because it was unable to find two more global sponsors.

“Based on further cost-cutting proposals made by VANOC and additional funding commitments made by Canada and the IOC, the Province agreed to a provincial VANOC assistance package,” said the report, called British Columbia's Investments in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and Related Activities, was published Friday.

While the federal and provincial government contributed $580 million for venue construction, VANOC was supposed to fund Games operations via broadcasting, ticket sales, merchandising and sponsorship. When the recession happened, all four revenue sources shrunk. Two sponsors -- General Motors and Nortel -- went into bankruptcy protection.

VANOC forecast a $1.76 billion operations budget in January 2009. Its fiscal year-end is July 31. A final, audited report is expected sometime after mid-October.

B.C. taxpayers are liable for any VANOC losses, based on commitments to the IOC.

The original $600 million budget for the B.C. government Olympic Games Secretariat climbed to $765 million when it transferred Games security responsibility to the federal government.

VANOC has not issued a quarterly financial report since December 2009, in violation of 2002 Multi-Party Agreement that defines the roles of the organizing committee and governments in staging the Games.

The B.C. government report was released eight days after the Harmonized Sales Tax went into effect in B.C. Finance minister Colin Hansen quietly regained the Olympic portfolio in a June 30 order-in-council.


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