2010 Olympics: Vancouver Winter Games Gave Economy A $2.3 Billion Boost, Report Says

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VICTORIA - Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympics paid measurable economic, social and cultural benefits to British Columbia at a time when world economies were struggling, says B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon.

The measured results form part of the seventh Games-related report released Thursday by consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, revealing economic and social boosts.

"In the lead up to the Olympics, as you know, we were in the midst of a global economic meltdown and 2009 was a very ugly year around the world, but British Columbia got the benefit of all that increased tourism and spending that took place," said Falcon.

The report examined the pre-and-post-Olympics period from 2003 to 2010, examining a wide range of areas, including the economy, tourism, legacy, performance and national pride.

It concluded 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, created more than 45,000 jobs and investment in sport paid off with a record haul of gold medals.

The report said almost 650,000 visitors arrived in B.C. in February 2010, with 242,000 visitors from Canada, 324,000 from the United States and 83,000 visitors from other countries.

"The 2010 Winter Games took place in the midst of a prolonged downward trend of international visitors due to the lingering effects of a global recession and a high Canadian dollar," said the report. "Even so, the number of visitors to B.C. in February 2010 increased significantly."

The report said B.C. venue construction and other third-party investments injected $1.26 billion into the economy and tourism revenue increased by $226 million during the Olympic period from 2003 to 2010.

The report said the Games were the most viewed Winter Games in history with 3.5 billion viewers.

The 2010 Olympics were also a big hit across Canada with statistics and surveys revealing Canadians were huge supporters of the Games.

Up to 26 million Canadians, 78 per cent of the country's population, said they watched some or all of Canada's men's gold-medal winning hockey game in Vancouver, said the report.

More than three million pairs of the symbolic red mittens were sold during the Games and the cross-Canada torch relay and related events drew 15 million people.

"When asked whether they believed that the 2010 Winter Games had a positive impact on Canada, nine out of 10 Canadians indicated the Games had a positive impact on tourism, Canada's image abroad and national pride," said the report.

Falcon acknowledged that B.C. tourism numbers have declined since the Olympics, which he attributed to a weak U.S. economy, but suggested B.C.'s plans to attract Asian investors and tourists could bring new visitors.

"If we can do that we can counter some of the slowdown we're seeing out of the United States market," he said.

Global economic uncertainty forced Premier Christy Clark to scale back tourism growth forecasts this week to five per cent a year until 2016.

Former premier Gordon Campbell said the Olympics would double tourism numbers by 2015.

Opposition New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston said the post-Olympic bounce appears to have gone flat.

"The previous premier, premier Campbell, was saying as a result of the pre-Olympic spending and the Olympic spending, tourism numbers were going to increase dramatically, a doubling by 2015," said Ralston.

"They revised that downwards," he said. It's clear that an opportunity which was much touted has completely disappeared."

Federal Minister of Sport Bal Gosal said in a statement the Games brought huge benefits to B.C. and Canada.

"Our investments achieved their intended results, including improved athlete performance in international competition, made-in-Canada innovations in building design, unprecedented Aboriginal participation and socio-economic benefits," said Gosal's statement.

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