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Premier's office added $2 billion to Olympic impact estimate

The British Columbia premier's office misrepresented a Conference Board of Canada report in a way that greatly exaggerated the economic benefits of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

"The Conference Board of Canada forecast that the Games will bring an additional $770 million to B.C.'s economy in 2010 alone,” said the March 1 press release from premier Gordon Campbell's office.

That figure matches a recent Conference Board report, but then the premier's release added, “That doesn't include $2 billion in spending by delegations of sponsors, suppliers, networking businesses and athletic teams."

The Conference Board, however, when asked about the premier's office's expanded figure, said it already included those sources of spending in its report.

“We've checked our top line numbers and we did include spending by, among others, sponsors, suppliers, athletic teams, etc. in our calculations to obtain a net economic impact of $770 million in 2010,” a spokesperson for the Conference Board, Yvonne Squires, wrote in an e-mail message.

Last February finance minister Colin Hansen said the Games would add $10 billion to the provincial economy, but the government later downgraded the figure to $4 billion.

In a November report the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said the Games had added roughly $788 million to B.C.’s GDP between 2003 and 2008. Combined with the Conference Board's estimate for 2010, the Tyee recently reported, the total impact of the Games on B.C.'s economy would be $1.6 billion, not including any impacts in 2009 or after 2010.

PWC will continue studying the economic impacts of the Games through 2012, said Hansen in an interview last week. “I think what we'll find is it's exceeded expectations,” he said. “I think it depends how you look at it and what kind of multipliers you use and we'll trust Pricewaterhouse to do that work.”

The total cost to Canadian and British Columbian taxpayers to stage the Games is estimated between $6 and $7 billion.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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