LICIA CORBELLA Updated: October 24, 2018 – Calgary, AB – If spouting falsehoods were an Olympic sport, the No side would win gold.
Scarcely a day goes by without some group or individual making up a bunch of fake facts about Calgary’s potential bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics in an apparent effort to scare Calgarians away from supporting the bid.
The most recent negative nellies embracing inaccuracies is the normally reliable and reasonable Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
In an admittedly clever attention-grabbing stunt, the Alberta office of the CTF announced Monday that they support the 2026 Winter Olympic bid of — wait for it — Stockholm! They went so far as to hold their news conference in front of Swedish furniture giant Ikea, holding a plate of Swedish meatballs while draped in the sky blue and gold cross of Sweden’s national flag.
GAVIN YOUNG / POSTMEDIAI don’t have any issue with people resorting to cheesy stunts and pranks to get attention. More importantly, everyone is entitled to their opinion. They are not, however, entitled to their own facts. Alberta director of the CTF, Franco Terrazzano, should have held his news conference in front of Burger King considering all of the Whoppers he seemed to pull out of thin air.
Whopper No. 1: “Why should a single mother in Toronto pay more taxes for a sporting event in Calgary?” he asked.
In reality, the single mom in T.O. will pay the same amount of taxes whether or not Calgary hosts the 2026 Olympics. Sport Canada has a pool of money it will award to whatever jurisdiction hosts a large sporting event — something it does every 10 years or so. The CTF knows this and knows its objection is false.
Whopper No. 2: “There’s no money for this. Federal debt is increasing by over $2 million every hour.” It may be true that the national debt is growing at that unsustainable rate but, as already pointed out, this money will be spent somewhere else if not in Calgary. Not hosting the Olympics will not save federal taxpayers any money. Ottawa will pick up 50 per cent of the public tab on the cost of capital expenditure on the Games for infrastructure that will stay in Calgary, including upgrading eight legacy venues that are now more than 30 years old, including the Olympic Oval, McMahon Stadium (which is an embarrassment), our bobsled and luge runs, etc. That money will never go back into general revenues to lower the debt.
As Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary 2026 points out, this city has hosted 175 World Cup events since the 1988 Olympics, which brings money into the region from around the world and leads to local youth becoming inspired and getting more physically active and healthier.
JIM WELLS/POSTMEDIAWhopper No. 3: During a CTV documentary called Yes or No: Should Calgary Host the Olympics? a Calgary economist said the iconic Water Cube in Beijing, which was built for that city’s 2008 Summer Olympics, is hardly used anymore.
Wrong. According to John Furlong, who was president and CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, “that swimming venue alone generated more than 200 million Chinese yuan (nearly US$29 million) last year alone.”
“It is widely used for sport, business, entertainment and more — and breaks even or better — and it’s now being expanded,” said Furlong, who was reached Tuesday at his home in Victoria, B.C.
“It will also be transformed and used for the Winter Olympics curling events in 2022 — they’re going to build the curling rinks above the swimming pools and they plan to rename it the Ice Cube,” he added. “I was there recently and witnessed all of this for myself. The venue is a spectacular success story.”
Night view of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games swimming pool venue taken on May 25, 2008. The blue bubble-wrapped structure of the National Aquatics Centre, known affectionately as the “Water Cube”, hosted the Beijing 2008 swimming competitions.Whopper No. 4: Yet another economist in the CTV documentary pulled random numbers out of his hat. “I think we had maybe 24 Olympic athletes in (Pyeongchang, South) Korea,” he said on camera. It took me exactly 0.79 seconds to find out via Google that Canada had 225 athletes in South Korea and won 29 medals, ranking Canada third in the medal standings behind Norway and Germany, and ahead of the United States. Do any of these people do any homework before they spout off and pretend they’re experts?
Whopper No. 5: The CTF has claimed that the 2026 Winter Olympics will cost each Calgary household more than $2,000. Calgary is likely to spend $700 million and get an investment of $4.4 billion coming into the city from mostly private money (IOC, sponsors and ticket sales). Divide $700 million by Calgary’s 513,878 households and that comes out to $1,362. But this number doesn’t take into account that Calgary households only pay 40 per cent of the property taxes. Forty per cent of $700 million is $280 million. Divide by 513,878 households and that comes to $544.87. That amount will be spread out over eight years — or, $68 per year. That’s an investment I’m more than willing to make to bring $4.4 billion into Calgary’s community and get a bunch of stuff fixed and built that needs to be done anyway.
When you consider that Calgary city council wants to build Calgary’s first field house for $300 million (Edmonton has three), then, really, the cost to Calgary will be $400 million.
A government of British Columbia report on the economic benefits of Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics found that from 2003 to the end of 2010, the Games generated at least $2.3 billion in real gross domestic product to B.C. alone. About 70 per cent of Games-related procurement contracts by value went to B.C.-based companies (valued at $1.1 billion).
The report found that nearly 650,000 people came to B.C. in February 2010, with 407,000 coming from outside of Canada. Since the Olympics, Vancouver has boomed and has attracted numerous jobs to the region owing to the billions of dollars of earned media.
Here’s hoping come the Nov. 13 plebiscite on whether to host the Olympics, Calgarians vote based on facts and not misinformation from those who think the only thing that governments should ever spend a dime on is roads, police and garbage pickup.
Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist.