6 Billion sure is a lot

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I'm making a new thread for this as the party in the other thread seems pretty focused and this is a topic into itself.

I've heard from several people and sources that the Olympics are a 6 billion dollar party. Everyone against the olympics seems to use this figure as their standing position about what's wrong with the whole event. My claim is that the amount of Olympic taxpayer money is far far smaller than that and it is only this smaller amount of money that should be considered when we're trying to determine the success, or payback of the Olympic costs.

From the other thread this was stated (Not as an opinion of someone participating, but just a redirected bit of info)

* Union-busting and public services cutbacks with a $6 billion Olympic budget,

This incorrectly correlates he $6 total budget not only for VANOC but also infrastructure projects with public funds that might otherwise have been spent on social projects. Can anyone please highlight what monies are being wasted here? (Public money). I understand $1 billion on security, but what else? Vanoc's budget is primarily private money that wouldn't have been here otherwise. The sea to sky and skytrain seem to get included whenever someone throws out that figure, but I personally believe that they were necessary at any rate. So I'm not convinced we've actually "wasted" 6 billion dollars and have yet to meet someone who will begin to justify that.

Not that there's a lack of people willing to quote it with outrage as if it were a choice between the Olympics (and only the olympics) and 30'000 housing units.

Anyone want to take a stab at the real figure?

My understanding is the main pieces *roughly* cost:
- $2B olympic budget - funded by private money; includes the $600M for venues I think
- $1B security - public funds
- $1B sea-to-sky highway - public funds (I've read estimates from $600M to $2B for this)
- $1B convention centre - public funds
- $2B canada line - public funds

i think the sea to sky modifications are great as well as the canada line. ive used both and am a big fan, regardless of what the reason was that they were built. one made safer one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in canada and the other created the only north-south rapid transit line in the lower mainland.

sooo saving lives and moving people in and out of downtown/vancouver/richmond faster? sounds good to me!

m2c By m2c

$1B security - public funds *WASTED??????*

I'm going to skip the whole part about how we don't want to have anyone blow up spectators/athletes at the games and focus on the "wasted" perception about security.

Last week an extended family friend who is an RCMP officer from Alberta was stationed in Whister for the duration of the games. He makes fairly good money (can we pay the police too much?) but he will be making a good deal of extra $$ in overtime in the next 2 months.

I have been volunteering with the Olympics for the last 2 months and many of the sites I go to have security at the gates. These people are working longer hours, getting more experiance and making more $$ then they would have otherwise.

This extra $$ for anyone who is working security is probably going 1 of 2 places. 1) Pay down debt - Seems like there is concern lately that Canadians have too much debt, so this might be good 2) Use disposable income to buy goods and services in the Canadian Economy - Also a good move.

While the media/detractors like to focus on "Crowd Control Sound Machines" and "Camera's that invade our privacy when we choose to go to a public place", a great deal of the $1 Billion is being spent on person-power in the form of wages to Canadians (RCMP, Local Police, Security Companies, Vehicle Screeners, etc....). This is not wasted money.

B

Wasted is relative to perception. While I'm pro olympics the only big ticket item that is paid for from the public purse, but for which there isn't a lasting impact would be security. It's very easy for me to rationalize (at least internally) that the skytrian, sea-to-sky highway and convention center were worth something as they'll be here for years and continue to generate economic impact. The rest of the olympic budget is funded by private sponsorship and ticket sales, so can't be included in what might be re-allocated.

That only leaves security as open to debate. I believe it's worth some amount, and I'm not 100% sure of how much that should be. If they say it's $1B I'd love to see how they arrive at that. How much EXTRA for the olympics opposed to having those forces in other training exercises for instance.

I believe that it's important, we can't have people getting shot etc. while we're hosting. I guess you intentionally skipped that part as it seems kind of obvious.

The rest of your argument is complete BS and boils down to "Well people spend the money they get". Unless you'd agree that giving me $1B of public funds isn't a waste, because I would also pay off my mortgage and buy a lot of crap.

The problem with the security issue is that it's always going to be too much or not enough. If nothing happens, there will be people who say that we paid too much for nothing to happen (Y2K anyone?), and if (heaven forbid) something does happen, people will be outraged that we did not spend enough on security. I haven't the foggiest idea if $1B is enough to spend on security, but I suspect it would be difficult to explain or justify to anyone.

Dugly: "The rest of your argument is complete BS and boils down to "Well people spend the
money they get". Unless you'd agree that giving me $1B of public funds isn't a waste,
because I would also pay off my mortgage and buy a lot of crap."

There is certainly a lot of crap here.

The government spending money to create new jobs is nothing new. It's also something that
can hardly be dismissed out of hand as a waste.

Yes, there will be less to show for it at the end of the day than if you spend that billion to
build a hydro dam or highway (both common targets for economic stimulus government works
projects), but it's certainly not a complete waste.

--

Also, you can't dismiss the $600 Million in sports and recreation facilities that are being built
just because they have 'corporate sponsors' on their line-item. These facilities are going to be
used as community and athletic centres by communities for decades to come. Whoever is said
to be paying for that, it is a very real benefit that the public is getting out of the Games.

--

So, if those numbers are accurate, the public is spending $5 Billion and getting

1) $4.6 Billion in public works facilities that will be used (and some will generate revenue) for
decades to come

2) Hundreds of thousands of man-months of labour (which has a huge effect on the
economy, and a decent percentage of which comes straight back as income tax, and sales
tax)

3) A huge spotlight on Canada, BC, and Vancouver (for better or worse, millions of dollars for
PR has been in the Canadian budget for long years before the Olympics).

4) Millions of tourism dollars injected into our economy (and not just during the Games
themselves). Remember sales tax? Yeah tourists don't get that back any-more.

5) The Olympic Games. Something which a huge majority of Canadians really want and are
really proud of.

--

Many of those are difficult to quantify (nearly impossible to estimate). All of them should be
included in any *reasonable* discussion on the cost/benefit of the Olympics.

"one made safer one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in canada "

I don't think we can make this assumption just yet. The highway now allows for higher speeds which in the event of accidents usually means higher fatality rates, and there are still fatal accidents on this stretch of road with depressing regularity. Enacting and enforcing mobile phone restrictions will hopefully have a much greater impact at a much lower cost.

The Sea to Sky was always pretty safe if you drove sensibly. Unfortunately, most of the accidents on that road come from bad decisions by drivers, not the road design. In fact, it doesn't even rate in the top twelve most dangerous roads in Canada according to the CAA (see link).

I do appreciate the fact that there is a wider shoulder for cyclists however. :-)

Regarding security and the increased wages, I think that this is all well and good, but one can easily make the argument that we could have tackled surgery wait lists and given the O/T to nurses and hospital staff, or hired more teachers, creating actual jobs, instead of topping up paycheques with overtime. In terms of general economic benefit, it's far better to hire more people rather than pay less people more overtime. In fact, I would argue the money would have been far better spent paying Canadian Forces personnel a living wage instead of the pittance they currently earn (average wage for an NCO is roughly $50,000), which stresses families unnecessarily and has hidden costs that are hard to quantify but are still expensive for the public purse.

How could I have forgotten another benefit of the games that our public money is funding:

6) The Arts! The Cultural Olympiad has been funding artists from all walks for 2 years. A couple
of my friends have been working their tails off for months in preparation.

This isn't to say that any one of these benefits is the absolute best use of money, but I think
even the most cynical person would admit that each pursuit mentioned is not a complete
waste of money.

I'm sure there's more benefits than I can think of in 20m. Anybody else?

Don't forget the pretty new manhole covers!

"I don't think we can make this assumption just yet. The highway now allows for higher speeds which in the event of accidents usually means higher fatality rates, and there are still fatal accidents on this stretch of road with depressing regularity. "

sooo we cant make the assumption that safety improvements (medians, rumble strips, highly reflective lines, roadwidenings) will make if safer but we can assume that people will drive faster?

“There were improvements that were required; the Olympics were just the catalyst to get this going,” Rob Ahola, former project director on the Sea to Sky project.

Rumble strips et al don't stop people from making bad driving decisions such as following too close, driving too fast for conditions, etc. If you read many of the media reports regarding accidents on the hwy, these are not uncommon factors contributing to crashes. It's absolutely not an assumption to say people will drive faster, since the road is now wider and in fact the speed limit is increased in many places along the road. Increased speed in an accident is generally accepted to increase fatalities. It's entirely possible we could see fewer accidents but more fatalities over time. Any statements regarding that road's safety are speculation until there's a long-term trend to compare to the fatality and accident rates before the changes.

IMO, $2B on young driver education across the province would have been a far more effective use of our money if road safety is the issue, and the Olympic requirements could have been well-accommodated by a temporary rail service for the duration of the Games. It also would have removed the need to rush through the road-building, which drove up costs.

Personally, I think BikerCK's final paragraph above is right on the money. However, I think that those who are saying the highway is now safer are also correct, particularly if you add the caveat "assuming that drivers are going to drive too fast anyways."

I think that, for an alert driver (almost) obeying the speed limit the old road was adequate and safe. It became unsafe when people decided that they could drive faster, while more tired and likely more distractedly. What the new road does is allow people to drive faster and reduce the likelihood of either driving into the oncoming traffic or over an embankment. So, making certain assumptions (ie: that drivers aren't going to excercise due caution) the road was necessary, but I think that improving driver education and licensing would yield greater benefits.

Imagine all the money our governments could save if they engineered and operated based on
the assumption that every citizen is going to be smart and do their best to act safely!

In the real world, things have to be built to protect against the actions of the foolish. Absolutely
we should also spend money to reduce the number of fools, but we'll never be able to build with
the assumption that everybody will 'play safe'. Arguments based on that hypothetical are
...well... foolish.

m2c By m2c

"Unless you'd agree that giving me $1B of public funds isn't a waste, because I would also pay off my mortgage and buy a lot of crap"

So I guess the argument here is that while giving a homeless man a meal might be good, and giving 1000 homeless men meals might be good, if you give 1 homeless man 1000 meals all at once that isn't good so giving the homeless food is, as Dugly puts it, complete BS. Great argument there.

B

that's quite the stretch.

Your argument is that paying people puts money in the economy, which is true. But that's a very wasteful way to generate economic activity. The money has to come out of the economy first after all. You're not talking about feeding homeless people, you're talking about paying certain already well paid individuals individuals more.

If you want to start bringing homeless into it, then why not use that money to feed the homeless?

I'm for spending the money, I think the Olympics will be, and already are, a boon on the BC economy. I think it's protected us from a recession felt around the world and provided some much needed infrastructure. However that's no excuse to blindly follow any party line nor make unjustifiable claims (as yours is).

The essence of your argument as you put it was that the money spent on wages gets put back into the economy. As the discussion of whether or not the money is being spent wastefully, that's a terrible argument. Like talking to a nutritionist and saying "Well I think ice-cream is good for you because it gets converted into calories that your body might use to function".

So, I suppose if you had an actual argument, it would be worth discussing, but there's no real point that you were trying to make, so why bother?

Temple: I didn't say it's a complete waste, I don't personally believe giving me a billion would be a complete waste. But I do believe the line of reasoning is complete BS. I agree 100% with the second half of your first post. The point of this discussion was to ascertain if anyone would actually step up to the plate and justify the 6B as being a waste. Nobody has even begun to, so I think we're likely all in agreement. It's just that CK had posted that w.r.t. another group's quote, but apparently doesn't believe it personally.

'Waste' is a subjective thing. Buying Hockey tix is a waste if you're not a fan. It's money well spent if you are. My personal opinion is that 2010 isn't the best use of taxpayers' money. Most of it is corporate welfare and the fact that a few crumbs fall to the ground to be scooped up by artists, athletes, security and construction workers, etc doesn't make it a good use of tax dollars. Some crumbs have come my way too and I've cashed those cheques like everybody else. Further, the protesters who seek a global spotlight wouldn't get it without the Games coming to town, so it's too complex to try and pigeonhole people with reductionist arguments that assume everything is black and white. To mention a sponsor obliquely, I think we bought a full meal deal just to get the plastic trinket that comes with it. So we have the toy and full tummy, but we all know how long those toys last, and how quickly the food goes from belly to bowel.

To continue with the Sea to Sky, the cost of that highway project could have built an entire network of streetcars throughout Vancouver. Clearly that would have benefited far more people than widening a road to a bankrupt playground for those with disposable income. For some families and individuals, it might have meant as much as a $10,000 savings annually (avg cost to run a car for a year). There are literally hundreds of other similar examples. So, it's cool if you want to support the Olympics because you made some money off it, or you enjoy a really big show, or you believe patriotism and national pride is important or whatever, but the argument that it was for the greater good is too easily dispelled and is a bit of an insult to peoples' intelligence. A circus isn't bread. And further, it's good to remember the motto of the best circus promoter ever... "There's a sucker born every minute."

I am of course super flattered to be the whipping boy on this one. When people feel compelled to disprove your assertions or paint you the fool, it must mean they think you have influence in some way.

a road to a bankrupt playground eh... i guess noone now lives on the squamish/whistler/pemberton corridor... i also guess the large increase in traffic on that highway since it was first built is all people looking for a playground.

"I am of course super flattered to be the whipping boy on this one. When people feel compelled to disprove your assertions or paint you the fool, it must mean they think you have influence in some way."

so thats what it "must" mean huh? either that or they just think you're wrong and they have nothing better to do...

Interesting articles:

"Vancouver's Olympics head for disaster"
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jan/31/vancouver...

"As Olympics near, people in Vancouver are dreading Games"
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/dave_zirin/01/25/vancouver/

The second one has interesting perspectives from a SI writer who just arrived in Vancouver.

Merlin: "The second one has interesting perspectives from a SI writer who just arrived in
Vancouver."

SI writer trying to find a story: "The original cost estimate was $660 million in public money.
It's now at an admitted $6 billion and steadily climbing."

Bull. Those estimates never included all the public works projects (sea to sky, skytrain,
community recreation centres, etc). Take those out of the picture and you're left with a figure
a lot closer to that $660 million. Sure, it's gone over-budget, there has been a pretty terrible
economic downturn, but suggesting the budget ballooned by almost 10x is crap-assed
sensational journalism at its worst.

The other article is parroting the same garbage logic almost word-for-word. Yes there is
money being spent on the Games. No, these two pieces don't do a shred of investigation to
determine what that money is, where it's coming from, or what it's buying.

--

Of note, I've not run into a single person on the various sports teams I play, the work
connections I have, or in my circle of friends that isn't super excited about the Olympics. Yes,
they all are 'dreading' traffic issues or other trivialities, but they're a small price to pay for a
once in a lifetime opportunity.

No doubt my crowd is in the top 75% of the bell-curve and not representative, so in reality
"people in Vancouver are dreading Games".

Absolutely, there's a small, but vocal group who are anti-Olympics (though they pretend that
they have different motives). They'll get more than their share of the spotlight, but it's
not going to significantly diminish the Games for the vast majority.

I wonder if the cheering of the millions across Canada will be torture to the 'Resist Olympic'
folks.

"but they're a small price to pay for a once in a lifetime opportunity."

I have a friend who has been to four Olympic games. They occur every two years. There have been three Olympics in Canada since 1976. We'll have the Pan-Am Games in Toronto in just a few years. There is no shortage of once-in-a-lifetime international sporting festivals.

"Take those out of the picture and you're left with a figure
a lot closer to that $660 million. Sure, it's gone over-budget, there has been a pretty terrible
economic downturn, but suggesting the budget ballooned by almost 10x is crap-assed
sensational journalism at its worst."

Security alone now stands at over $1 billion, without VPD overtime yet added. Original estimate was $100 million approx.

"Yes, they all are 'dreading' traffic issues or other trivialities"

If you're a business owner, having employees stuck in traffic instead of working isn't trivial. It's a direct cost that a lot of companies can ill-afford, due to the 'terrible economic downturn'.

> Of note, I've not run into a single person on the various sports teams I play, the work connections I have, or in my circle of friends that isn't super excited about the Olympics.

My experience is very different. I think I am aware of one couple plus one person among all I've spoken to about it who are "super excited." A number of others have tickets to an event, but just as many have explicitly said "whatever." While this may not support a claim that we're all "dreading" the Olympics' arrival, it certainly doesn't agree with the sentiment you're suggesting by referring to the "vast majority," and that every person you've spoken to is "super excited." As for this being a once in a lifetime opportunity, you're always free to move to London and do it all again in two years.

Also, regarding the claim of pride you made earlier, of all the family and friends I've spoken to in Ontario over the past months and years, most expected I'd be excited by being at the centre of it all, maybe with a bit of envy at the idea, but I haven't come across anyone who has expressed anything like pride.

"With a police officer on every corner and military helicopters buzzing overhead, Vancouver looks more like post-war Berlin than an Olympic wonderland. "

wow. sensational journalism, indeed.

I often think of post-war Berlin as I'm biking though the forested causeway; riding Xhiggy's meadow, and jogging along the seawall. The oppression in this city is stifling. And it's just so dirty. and oppressive and....

nope...I can't even pretend.

It (the o-lympics)'s gonna be a fun time, for sure. At the expense of a tonne of less fortunate, absolutely. Do with it what you will, but don't insult my intelligence with such ridiculous comparisons.

I did see two fighter planes fly over the city the other day...maybe they were on their way to bring down the Beaded Curtain that separates the East and West sides?

Take that, communism!

I saw those hornets fly right overhead.

I could have sworn I saw blue earmuffs on one of the pilots...

Yep, nothing says friendly competition like a fly-past by a couple of supersonic killing machines.

Yep, nothing says "I'm a nutjob" like tying together completely unrelated coincidences to further
one's conspiracy theories.

A reminder for all: the VUL Forum Rules apply to the Politics forum, too. Treat other participants with the respect you would appreciate and expect on the field.

Back to your spreadsheets!

Seriously though. If I were to point to a military aircraft flying over the field during a game and
say, 'that's not very spirited of your team to try to intimidate us that way', I *expect* to be
called a nut job.

Warning heeded, but let's make sure the moderation is saved for serious offenses when free
speech actually impacts upon well-being. Heckling is an important part of the VUL, both on and
off the field.

Being called a nutjob is a compliment when you tell the truth. Those fighter jets burning approximately 10 litres of kerosene to the mile are part of the 2010 love fest.

http://www.news1130.com/news/local/article/20776--final-olympic-security...

Huh, I didn't realize that they'd be flying CAP overhead, but I suppose it makes a certain
amount of sense given the number of world leaders and high-value terrorist targets.

I was wrong to suggest you were a nut job (in regards to that at least! :p ).

Still, I think that level of defense is an unfortunate requirement due to the rather more extreme
forms of protest we've seen visited upon Western society.

"Still, I think that level of defense is an unfortunate requirement due to the rather more extreme
forms of protest we've seen visited upon Western society."

Really? Then why don't we have it every day? Because 'world leaders' are coming to town? If they had any sense of responsibility they'd stay home so as not to endanger innocent people who might be collateral damage, instead of vacationing on the taxpayers' dime.

Keam: "Really? Then why don't we have it every day? Because 'world leaders' are coming to
town? If they had any sense of responsibility they'd stay home so as not to endanger innocent
people who might be collateral damage, instead of vacationing on the taxpayers' dime."

Let's follow your logic. If they stayed home, then they'd be endangering the lives of millions
and millions more people in all the cities of the world they're coming from.

One could say the Olympics are a valiant gesture by Vancouver to protect the citizenry of
dozens of cities world-wide.

That would be silly, but so too would be to suggest that people should stay at home and do
nothing in order to prevent terrorist attacks. If you do that... wait for it... then the terrorists
have won.

A billion dollars to protect a tv show from the Boogey Man ! It's beautiful in its effectiveness.

"Let's follow your logic. If they stayed home, then they'd be endangering the lives of millions and millions more people in all the cities of the world they're coming from."

A logical person might pay attention to the news and note that the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks occur in countries that aren't even coming to the games. One might surmise their leaders won't be there either.

http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/globalterrorism1.html

Having them all show up in one place and stand in front of tv cameras is creating a high-value target that didn't exist if they all stayed home. If you truly believe terrorism is a global threat, hosting the Olympics is an incredibly irresponsible move that endangers the host country and its citizens for no good reason.

Keam: "If you truly believe terrorism is a global threat, hosting the Olympics is an incredibly
irresponsible move that endangers the host country and its citizens for no good reason."

With that attitude, the terrorists *have* won.

Keep Calm and Carry On

I forgot how fun this forum is :)

Temple your posts are doozies...good stuff.

"With that attitude, the terrorists *have* won."

That's your attitude mate. You think we need to spend our money protecting ourselves from the boogey man.

Keam: "That's your attitude mate. You think we need to spend our money protecting ourselves
from the boogey man."

I didn't say that at all. I don't know whether the money spent on this security is overkill or not.

I do know that your suggestion that we cancel public events and hide in our homes is not an
acceptable solution to terrorism. It seems like that attitude is being afraid of the 'boogey man'.

"your suggestion that we cancel public events and hide in our homes"

Except that's not my suggestion. As usual Temple, you mis-characterize what I say, go for the ad hominem attack (and have it blow up in your face) and then insult me further with a ham-fisted non-apology. It is, to put it mildly, unspirited.

"I didn't say that at all. I don't know whether the money spent on this security is overkill or not."

"Still, I think that level of defense is an unfortunate requirement due to the rather more extreme
forms of protest we've seen visited upon Western society."

You absolutely said it was money well-spent. Read your own words.

"Due diligence" measures are often overkill, they're often not enough.

The uncertain nature of prevention is due primarily to the risk being so uncertain.

Is it overkill? I don't know (it is if there are no airborne threats, it isn't if there are). Is it
necessarily done as part of due diligence? Probably. It's better to be safe than sorry. Due
diligence is often about overkill.

Let me give an analogy:

Some suggest that sunglasses should be banned from ultimate because they pose an
unacceptable risk to the safety of all players. This camp isn't sure about the exact risks, but
feel that it's better to be safe than sorry.

Don't change the subject. Either you think it's money well spent or you don't. Or you don't know.

I thought I was clear.

I think it's money well spent.

I don't know whether or not it's overkill (having and not needing).

I do know that it's better to have and not need than need and not have. When you can't know
what 'just enough' is, overkill is better than under-preparedness.

Interesting philosophy, maybe we should try applying it to things like education rather than security, hmmm?

Well said, kermit. It's easy to find reasons to support something. Asking whether spending on a new highway is a 'waste' is a red herring - that's not the real question. If your goal is to save lives, spending $1B on housing or treatment centres would have saved a heck of a lot more.

The real question is whether that's the best use of the money; whether the money could have been better spent elsewhere. What about the recent cuts to gaming grants for art and sports organizations? Possible teacher layoffs? The quote in the SI article said it best:

"As a staunch Olympic supporter, a sports reporter from the Globe and Mail said to me, 'The optics of cuts in city services alongside Olympic cost overruns are to put it mildly, not good.' "

That's why some people are glum. They want to party, and most of us will (me included), but when some of your neighbours are struggling due to cuts, it's hard to do that freely.

Merlin: "The real question is whether that's the best use of the money; whether the money could
have been better spent elsewhere. What about the recent cuts to gaming grants for art and
sports organizations? Possible teacher layoffs?"

I agree 100%.

But isn't the real question also, what is the best target for cutting funding to supply those other
areas? See the other thread. The Resist Olympics camp is focused on the money (already) spent
on the Olympics and ignores the Billions of fat that the majority of the Country doesn't care
deeply about. That myopic view does a disservice to their purported causes.

"The Resist Olympics camp is focused on the money (already) spent
on the Olympics and ignores the Billions of fat that the majority of the Country doesn't care
deeply about. "

Oh Geez. here we go again.

http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/02/02/2010Protestors/

Your knowledge of their viewpoint or causes is brutally inadequate.

Temple: "But isn't the real question also, what is the best target for cutting funding to supply those other areas?"

That may be the question in that other thread, but not this one. Go back there if you want to argue about protester strategy. This thread is about whether $6B was wasted.

[edit: although that article was interesting, CK. Reading it gives me some idea why they'd want to spend $1B on security...]

Thank you Merlin!

Merlin is right, the point I was trying to make is that 6B seems like a lot, but that the public funding specifically for the Olympics is far far less. When I see someone protesting against the full tally it makes me wonder if they have the facts or are just blindly following someone else who told them how much was being "wasted".

No hype pro or con, but a objective look at Olympics and their costs. Or maybe I'm just saying that because it reflects my view.

link below - "Myths About Landing the Olympics"

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