2010 Olympic Games $110 million over budget

The venue costs for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver have shot up by a whopping 23 per cent to $580 million from the original estimate of $470 million.

The venue costs for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver have shot up by a whopping 23 per cent to $580 million from the original estimate of $470 million.

VANOC's John Furlong released a new budget
for the 2010 Games on Friday, showing venue
costs have gone up by $110 million (CP Photo)

John Furlong, the chief executive officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), revealed the revised venue budget for the Games on Friday.

Furlong blames rising construction costs and a shortage of skilled workers for the big increase.

He says Olympic organizers have already asked the B.C. government to cover off half the overrun, and says talks will begin soon with the new Conservative government in Ottawa.

The provincial and federal governments have committed $310 million each toward the overall costs of staging the 2010 Olympics. And any cost over-runs are supposed to be paid for by B.C.

The provincial government has already said it believes the Games can be completed within a $139-million contingency fund it created to cover cost overruns.

Furlong stated that the organizing committee will hold the line on any further cost increases, and is "determined not to return to the taxpayers of Canada for additional public funds to complete the venue program.

"It is clear that until venue construction is completed in 2008 there will continue to be the risk of unforeseen cost increases. Our pledge to taxpayers is to limit their investment in these venues to $580 million."

Furlong explained that the new budget figure comes after VANOC identified other ways to cut the overall cost of the Games.

"Understanding the heated construction environment we are operating in, our team spent the past two years rigorously examining every potential savings and efficiency," he said. "We've identified $85 million in venue cost efficiencies so far."

Furlong said the initial capital estimate was prepared, according to International Olympic Committee requirements, in 2002 dollars and made no adjustment for inflation and potential increases in construction costs.

Critic calls for resignations and accountability

No 2010 Games Coalition spokesperson Phil LeGood is calling for big changes in the way the games are being managed and funded.

Olympic critic Phil LeGood says John Furlong
should be held accountable for the cost overrun
He says no more taxpayers' money should be spent on the Vancouver Winter Games.

"It's about time that the private sector ponied up to this. This is a private sector game. They are going to be the ones who are going to benefit from this, not the public, now."

LeGood also wants changes at the top, saying someone has to be held accountable for the $110-million cost overrun. And he says that person is CEO John Furlong.

"The leadership, I mean, you can't have the same person making two promises to cut costs and still sit there. Nor can you have Jack Poole, whose company originally made these estimates, sit there. We need professionals here."

He also says the VANOC board should be replaced by an independent body that's accountable to taxpayers

NDP questions government credibility

NDP Leader Carole James says she's not surprised to hear that the construction costs have risen by 23 per cent. And she says she doesn't believe the government's assurances its contingency fund will cover any increases.

"We heard over and over again from this premier the Olympics would be on time and on budget. It wasn't going to cost the taxpayers another cent.

"And now what do we see? We see what we said was going to happen, that the taxpayers are, in fact, on the hook, and I don't believe the government when they say this is going to be the only request."

James says Auditor General Wayne Strelioff should be allowed to examine the VANOC financial records, pointing out the government rejected a proposal for Strelioff to be the "auditor of record" for the Games.