Games rack up huge $440,000 surplus

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 2:14 AM ET

Local organizers of the 2004 Ontario Summer and Winter Games served up a "stunning" $440,000 surplus when they presented their final report this week. None of the money will go back into city coffers, however, even though London contributed $200,000 to each Games. The province kicked in another $890,000 for the Games, bringing the total grants from the municipality and the province to almost $1.3 million.

London co-chair Mike Murphy said the surplus was due mainly to containing "thousands of dollars" of waste they noticed from past Ontario Games. Murphy, along with co-chair Jane Peckham, reported the news to a council committee Monday.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said the Games benefit the city through economic spinoff, allowing citizens to participate by volunteering and giving positive attention to the city.

She said London is becoming known as the "capital of sports tourism. We've had so many positive experiences here."

Jim Montag of the London-Middlesex Taxpayers Coalition was not as enthused.

"That looks to me like a loss," he said. "We used to call it creative accounting.

"I'm sorry, but have your Games elsewhere. They're just a total waste of taxpayers' money."

The money the Games made must go to a legacy fund, according to an agreement between the province and city.

"It's always very clear up front, whenever you're bidding for these Games, that any . . . surplus would be reinvested back to the community, but not the levels of government," DeCicco said.

She said she doubted London would have been selected to hold the Games if it asked for its investment back.

The legacy fund is handled by the London Community Foundation.

Fanshawe and Western also get one-third each for their varsity athletes from the London area who are in financial need.

"Fanshawe had a matching grant program with the provincial government. The $130,000 became $260,000," Murphy said.

He said Western is also hoping to match its grant.

The City of Barrie gets

15 per cent of the surplus from the Winter Games -- also to be put into a legacy fund -- because it held four skiing events and contributed $20,000.

Murphy said his committee was stunned when the books showed the Games made a huge profit, especially when volunteers struggled to get sponsors.

"It was very challenging to do the fundraising. At the time of the Winter Games, we weren't sure whether we were going to come into the black or the red," he said.

"We went from the Cadillac budget to the mid-size budget to the Volkswagen budget pretty quickly."

Murphy said his group monitored teams' hotel rooms, transportation costs and food vouchers.

"We determined in previous Games many thousands of dollars had been wasted because athletes would come in and they'd be beaten out on the Thursday or Friday and their rooms would be vacated and maybe their vouchers would be passed on."

At the 1996 Summer Games in London, one sport had a $10,000 hotel bill for rooms that weren't used.

"There's no question the reason they were so successful was that they paid attention to the detail of the cost involved," DeCicco said.

"It's terrific. (London) has taught me a lot about how to save money in the future," said Jim Murray, programs leader for the Ontario Games.

Murphy said the Games committee also made money because:

- It received a $100,000 GST rebate.

- An anonymous donor gave $10,000.

-There was good weather for both Games.

- From 85 to 95 per cent of fans lived within driving distance of London, unlike the Canada Games (which didn't make money), so there were more people on hand, buying merchandise and tickets.


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