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Olympic ticket numbers finally revealed

Report says taxpayers paid more than half of $4.27 billion Games costs

Two-thirds of the sport tickets sold to the 2010 Winter Olympics were for ice events at Vancouver indoor venues.

The Olympic Games Impact Study, which was led by University of B.C. Prof. Rob VanWynsberghe and published Tuesday, revealed the sport-by-sport sales which VANOC refused to disclose in last December's post-Games financial report.

"On occasion we had to talk to the International Olympic Committee to get data from VANOC," VanWynsberghe told the Courier. "This was one of the situations."

VanWynsberghe's VANOC-commissioned study showed 1,279,938 tickets were sold to all sporting events. VANOC previously revealed that it sold 556,638 for Rogers Arena and Thunderbird Arena hockey games. Curling at the Hillcrest Community Centre (151,557) and figure skating at the Pacific Coliseum (108,653) were the next hottest. Another 46,106 tickets were sold to short-track speedskating at the Coliseum. The least-popular events were outdoors at Whistler: skeleton (10,641), nordic combined (11,396) and luge (25,018).

Organizers of the 2002 Salt Lake Games sold 1,455,608 sport tickets, led by 361,724 for hockey. Alpine skiing (184,215) and cross-country skiing (169,547) were next best. Curling sold the least (40,752).

VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade, now in charge of B.C. Hydro communications, claimed "there has been no indication of an appetite for this level of detail" when she declined to release the numbers last December.

The OGI report estimated 55.3 per cent of the $4.27 billion cost to build and operate the Games and related activities was borne by taxpayers, but only a fraction was measured returning to government coffers. VanWynsberghe estimated the federal government took in as much as $101.4 million in taxes from Games-time visitor spending and B.C. $7.7 million. VANOC spent $298.4 million on a staff estimated to have paid $51.6 million in taxes.

"That's our best-case scenario," VanWynsberghe said.

While government-sponsored reports by PricewaterhouseCoopers claimed the Games were an economic bonanza, the OGI study offers a modest opinion. Increases for jobs, airport passengers and cargo traffic, visitor spending, hotel rates and real estate sales were "potentially" due to or related to the Games.

"The hosting of the Games may have modified the trend during the economic crisis, i.e., without the Games, there could have been less of an increase in visitor spending, no increase (stable), or a decrease," it said.

Games-time energy use was split between fossil fuels and hydroelectricity. More than 5 million litres of gas and diesel were consumed Jan. 1 to March 31, 2010. VANOC had a fleet of more than 1,000 chartered buses that cost $92.6 million and 4,667 General Motors cars and trucks with a $43 million budget.

Two pressure groups opposed the Games (Anti-Poverty Committee and No 2010) and two were monitors (2010 Watch and Impact on Community Coalition), but they shared concerns about host city homelessness.

"Although there was no new data related to homelessness and affordable housing since the Pre-Games Report, it is possible that media attention and local advocacy efforts have catalyzed government efforts to address the issues of homelessness and affordable housing," the report said.

The 162-page study is the third of four report cards on Olympic socio-cultural, environmental and economic impacts over a 12-year period. The conclusion is due in 2013.

2010goldrush@gmail.com