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Why you’re in love with the Olympics — or not — and no one can change your mind

March 5th, 2009 · 9 Comments

I got to do a fun story in BCBusiness on why we’re hard-wired to believe the Olympics will save us or ruin us, as the new science of behavioural economics has helped us understand. My research also helped me understand why now is the moment when we’re all in the worst possible mood we’re likely to be in pre-Olympics. You may not believe me now, but we’re going to feel more chipper by next February. You can read it here.

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  • Simon

    Great article Frances. My copy of BCBusiness arrived this week at my home in Toronto and I found your article well-presented and thought provoking.

  • Quatchi

    Great article. I do admit that my vote for the games was made with the same rationale as your frat boys, and I stand by it. WOOO PAARTTYYY!

  • A fun read, Frances. I was against the Games leading up to the bid because of concerns over costs. But since winning them, I’ve become a supporter of sorts. Ultimately, I see no value in being negative if we’ve committed to spend the money. It takes a world-class curmudgeon to find pleasure in a $5-billion “I-told-you-so” funded by the taxpayer. Even a grump like me has his limits.

  • Glissando Remmy

    Frances, with your permission I will post my entrance from Feb 18th, 2009… again.
    It goes too well with your new topic and at this late hour I feel too lazy to start afresh. I’ll have to repeat myself anyway.
    But before I do that I have to say that I voted NO for the Olympics on that awful February 22nd 2003 referendum. I was one of the 36% out of the 50% of eligible voters that showed up and said No.
    I voted based on my research on the history (financial) of the Games, it was simply a judgement call and common sense 101. It cost the city and the province nothing in order to make me to vote NO. Not the same story on the YES votes however. First the carrot was shown to them; the venue budget was $470 million, operating budget $1.3 billion. The city spent $575,000 on the Referendum and Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation spent around $4 million on public relations, advertising and gimmicks to sell the games to the YES voters. The irony is that being a Crown corporation they used my tax money to promote something that I was opposed to. The winning Bid cost was $34 million. The venue construction budget now totals $600 million; operating budget 1.8 $ billion. I want to think that knowing what they know now the people of Vancouver would vote against the Games however the historic data also says that people do the same mistakes over and over again. Stupid but true!
    Anyway, here is that post.
    ”Ave Caesar morituri te salutant!
    I’ll tell you what. The only reason why we are in such a trouble is because the likes of John Furlong and his pals from VANOC @ comp. concluded not long ago and was seconded by ALL levels of incompetent governments that the Olympic Village MUST be finished on time. Why? Here’s the thing, we, the people of Vancouver were recently, nicely and effectively sodomized when VV- COPE -NPA council and Mayor bypassed us all and ran right into the arms of the more than fore played and willing Gordo with the request for more real estate ownership for the City.
    See, they all wanted to please the IOC Gods. Screw the people!
    Half a billion promised dollars later we own the damn thing. Therefore if I am not mistaken, now… I AM the owner of the Olympic village, together with YOU and YOU and ANY OTHER soul that pays taxes in the city of Vancouver and… NOT the athletes, or VANOC, or the IOC who surprisingly act like one. There! And you know what? I say, put the brakes on the whole project , preserve it, sleep on it and when the market is back we’ll make sure that we’ll get the right product for the right price. I would be more than willing to give up an extra bedroom for any of the athletes that would lack proper accommodation during the Games. Remember those days?
    To the people in office at the Vancouver City Hall I have these words: “The Emperor is naked!” YOU are the ONLY “developer” in this town willing to take such a risk and be so ignorant. The actual real developers are taking a break from it all and even make some savings during this process. Under your TUTELAGE and with OUR money! Think of the new communal parks and garden allotments for urban agriculture built on top of former Gas stations. Aaah, those radishes, heirloom tomatoes and green onions with a hint of benzene. To die for!
    But hold on a moment, these very Developers not willing to take a risk with their own money are sitting on the newly minted Mayor’s advisory committee so they could give their innocent and impartial views on how to spend “other people’s money” on a project they would NOT touch if their lives would depend on it.
    And then unlike in Dante’s “La Divina Comedia” there comes IOC’s Frere Jacques Rogge to tell us not to leave all the hope at the entrance of Hell but to be happy because the show must go on and that we all live in the real world and not in Utopia.
    Excuse me? The World is on the verge of collapse financially, economically and politically, Canada is at the beginning of a cruel recession and he is pushing for his pathetic Games? He is telling us what is important and what is not?
    Up yours, Messieurs Olympic connoisseurs, I know that up there on top the food is much better but the loneliness must be a killer.
    You are all a Psychopathic bunch and you know it.
    “The cost of the 250 housing units has soared from the original estimate of $65 million to $110 million”
    Anybody has a problem with that?
    If we can forecast a half a billion dollars Convention Centre and end up paying 1 billion for it (thanks Mr. Podmore, looking forward to your advice on the Mayor’s panel), if we can build a super highway so that the rich folks in Whistler can cut their travel by 15 min ( now please observe 1 min of silence for the Eagle Ridge Bluffs), if we can afford a Skytrain line that will cater to the employees of the YVR to downtown Vancouver (’cause you see, I don’t believe that the expected Winter Games World tourist after paying a modest $300 a night for a room and a couple of thousands more for Games tickets will say : “Oh ya, I’m gonna save on transit! Screw the taxis!”), if we are so STUPID or NAIVE to accept SECURITY costs estimated now at 1 billion dollars from 175 million (and if we do I’ll petition everyone to buy a cheaper Taser Gun on the black market and electrocute ourselves ’cause we deserve it ).
    So, what’s 45 million dollars extra for social housing, for our people, for our needs? NOTHING.
    It’s like one mosquito bite when you find yourself in the middle of the Indian monsoon season.
    The spin doctors associated with the Horrorlympic Games are working hard to deflect their horrific spending away from them and try to make ME and YOU feel BAD for something GOOD when in fact THEY are the ones guilty as charged.
    We will eventually host the Games because the historic facts tells us that in almost all cases the Fat Cats managed to convince the Skinny Mice that the mouse traps are good for them for their population control, body image and self esteem.
    Finally, the only good thing about the Games (that I can see) coming to Vancouver is that I may be able to ask a World renowned “skeleton” competitor what motivates them to put that sperm look alike costume on and then rush down the race track head first at speeds exceeding 130 km per hour. That I have to know!
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy!”

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    I hope no-one out there is betting what’s left of their savings on the rosy prognosis that the global economic crisis is going to be sorted out by February 2010. Of course, VANOC, the Board of Trade, the Campbell Bros. and Hansen have to push this line now to keep spirits up among the battered business crowd, their biggest campaign donors. But not even Wall Street believes this line or tries to shill it anymore. About the best we can really hope for is a dead-cat bounce. If that happens, take my word for it: SELL!!!

    And it’s sure interesting that Condohype has now declared himself to be on board with a “5 billion dollar branding exercise”, especially at a time when, as Frances’ article points out, we’re nearing the peak of our Righteous Indignation. I guess he’s always gone against the crowd. So call me a curmudgeon, but over the past three years Vancouver has had an amazing opportunity to put a serious dent in some of our most pressing social issues, and instead the Chalk Circle run by Gordo’s Libs and the NPA cut a bunch of sweetie-pie deals that make the fast ferries look like chump change, all the while ignoring problems that have reached epidemic proportions: an AIDS rate 6 times the national average, the highest rate of child poverty in the country, a bankrupt transit system, and enough homeless people to fill the Richmond Oval five times over. If that’s not enough, we have massive cost over-runs, endless traffic snarls, developers crying poor 6 months after a historic boom now leeching off city taxpayers, and police crackdowns designed to hide the magnitude of the festering issues from the world’s judgemental eyes. Whatever the final bill for the games, the opportunity cost that Frances alludes to is already astronomical.

    As Brecht said: “Those who have no share in the good fortunes of the mighty often have a share in their misfortunes.”

    Personally, I love sports. I can’t wait for the hockey tournament and I fully expect to participate in the celebrations (can’t afford events, though). I think we are lucky, without a doubt, to be hosts. And I’m sure my kid will have good memories of this, since he is happily oblivious to all the economic ballyhoo, and gets to miss two weeks of school. I just hope our athletes don’t turn in the same kind of shoddy performances as our politicians have.

  • Wagamuffin

    I am looking forward to the Games, and the performances, from all.

    And just in case the Millenium site isn’t finished in time, I am ready to make the ultimate sacrifice: an invitation to the Canadian Men’s hockey team and the Men’s Downhill team to stay at my place. Pillow fight!

    Wagamuffin: A Great Canadian Patriot (TM)

  • fbula

    1. Condohype, I am honoured by your compliment.
    2. Wagamuffin — I think that your open house and pillow fight would be the ideal time to bring together all regular posters on this blog.

  • Wagamuffin


    Are the posters man (and woman) enough to do it!?

    I’m ready when they are…ladies and gentlemen, choose your weapons (standard, queen or king-size). I can also put aside some foamy bats…

  • Being an incurable optimist (otherwise how would I survive self employment and the retail industry for 20 years) I was pumped about the Olympics, voted for them, and watched with great interest as the venues at Trout Lake and Little Mountain took shape. How can this be bad. It can’t, right ! And now I learn that Vancouver’s main cross town artery will be taken over as a dedicated Olympic route for weeks. My store on Broadway west of Arbutus will essentially be cut off for all my destination customers around the lower mainland. On top of the Canadian dollar, the quavering economy, wholesale price increases, threats of another Canada Line debacle with the UBC rapid transit announcement … all ganging up on small business … even my rose coloured glasses are turning a shade of grey, like my hair.