- They’re a huge, heinous waste of taxpayer dollars.
- They’re a celebration of the city, province and nation which, through infrastructure investment and international exposure, brings new wealth to the region.
The more left of centre you are, the likelier you are to be in Camp #1. I like to think of myself as near the centre, and this conversation highlights that position. I haven’t done enough reading. However, looking at previous Olympics in North America, it seems that both outcomes are true, depending on who you ask. The key facts that I wrestle with are:
- The money available for the Olympics wouldn’t necessarily be available to house the homeless or increase the police force.
- It’s incredibly difficult to accurately measure the benefits of an event this big, which impacts so many sectors in the short, medium and long term.
We can see this discussion on a simpler, smaller scale in the current grumblings by the BC NDP about BC Place’s new roof. The roof will apparently cost CAN $365 million, and the NDP is running a marketing campaign against the expenditure. It’s worth noting, of course, that neither party are strangers to absurd over-spending (how now, PacificCat Explorer).
Here’s the NDP’s position, and here’s the BC Liberal’s response (I note that the NDP is winning the search engine optimization battle). To be honest, I can’t even grok this simpler issue. What’s the value of the roof’s refurbishment? How long will it extend the life of BC Place, and much event-related and spin-off revenue will that generate? How many jobs does the project and the subsequent expansion create? What’s the value of an MLS franchise to the city?
On the other hand, what would $365 million mean to the Downtown Eastside? Knowing that $1.4 billion over the past nine years has barely made a dent in that neighbourhood’s problems isn’t particularly encouraging.
It’s easy to say “I like sports, and therefore the Olympics and the roof replacement are a good thing”. It’s much, much harder to be a good citizen and dig up the empirical data that makes an unbiased case one way or another. I’m sorry that I haven’t done that in this blog post, but time marches ever onward and all that.
What do you think? Should BC Place get a new roof?
Photo by Chris Coleman.