2010 Olympic Winter Games finds modest benefits

Pre-Games impact study for 2010 Olympic Winter Games finds modest benefits  

Vancouver  December 4, 2009 - Early results from a comprehensive study that measures the impact of the Olympic Games during the first four years of the organizing phase finds Canada’s decision to host the 2010 Games has helped boost its medal count and led to an increase in the number of businesses in Vancouver and Whistler.

Meanwhile, the results on issues such as housing and the environment remain inconclusive in this initial period.

The Olympic Games Impact (OGI) Pre-Games Report, led by University of British Columbia Prof. Rob VanWynsberghe, is the second of four studies required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to measure the overall impact of the 2010 Winter Games.

The OGI uses 126 IOC-mandated indicators to measure the economic, social and environmental conditions of the host city, region and country. The current study measures changes in the Metro Vancouver area between 2002 and 2006, compared to baseline data from 2001.

“Our approach to OGI is designed to explore whether or not the Games have had an impact on the host, if that impact is positive or negative, and where possible, to determine the size of the impact,” VanWynsberghe says. “So far, in combining the social, economic and environmental spheres we see a slight positive impact.”

VanWynsberghe, from the School of Human Kinetics and Department of Educational Studies in the UBC Faculty of Education, will work with researchers to table the two remaining OGI reports in 2010 and 2013.

“Our findings will help guide future bidders and organizing committees to maximize the benefits of the Games and create a standard by which all future Games will be measured,” VanWynsberghe says.

The OGI Study was developed by the IOC to introduce a standardized cross-Games method of monitoring, measuring and reporting on the impact of hosting the Olympic Games. Beginning with the Vancouver Games, all Olympic organizing committees are contractually required to undertake the OGI Study in conjunction with an independent research organization, allowing the IOC to build a long-term understanding of Games impacts.

The three reports to be delivered under the OGI research program are funded by $300,000 from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) and a $300,000 in-kind donation from UBC.

Key findings of the OGI-UBC Pre-Games Report:

Social impact

The report cannot definitively attribute impacts on housing or homelessness to the Games. The report finds a number of social housing units are being built while others are simultaneously being lost. The construction of new affordable housing and social housing units has not kept pace with the number of homeless people.

The hosting of the Games and the implementation of Own the Podium 2010 and Podium Canada, innovative programs to support Canada’s athletes and coaches leading up to 2010, have helped improve Canada’s medal count in elite amateur athletic competitions. The number of medals won at Olympic Winter Games by Canadian athletes increased by 41 per cent, from 17 medals in 2002 (Salt Lake City) to 24 medals in 2006 (Torino). The report also notes the overall rise in Canadian medals over the past three Olympic Winter Games is virtually all due to improved performance by female athletes.

Environmental impact

The 2010 Games may have had an indirect negative (and possibly temporary) impact on air quality in Whistler and nearby Squamish, likely due in part to Games venue construction and other activities oriented towards preparing the region for the 2010 Games. Air quality as a whole in Metro Vancouver, however, improved between 2002 and 2006.

The Games may have contributed to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and water consumption in British Columbia by stimulating pro-environmental awareness and practices, either directly or indirectly. However, the trend on both these fronts in B.C. after 2003/2004 suggests a move towards more environmentally friendly practices and increased acceptance of the idea of sustainable development that is likely to have existed regardless of the 2010 Games.

Economic impact

The selection of Vancouver/Whistler as host of the 2010 Winter Games likely contributed to the increase in the number of companies in Metro Vancouver (by 17 per cent) and in the Squamish-Lillooet region (by 36 per cent). It is also plausible that the unemployment rate in B.C. has been positively affected by the selection of Vancouver as the 2010 Games host through an upsurge in employment opportunities.

Vancouver seems to enjoy increasing popularity as a place to host international events (increase of 46 per cent between 2001/02 and 2006/07), which may in part be due to the upcoming 2010 Games. However, the Olympic Games do not appear to have affected the number of tourists to Vancouver in the time period of the study.

The full report is available here

Source: University of British Columbia

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