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Olympics impacts report: Environment, bad; business, good; housing, undecided

December 4th, 2009 · 4 Comments

The UBC researchers who have been doing the most thorough analysis of Olympics impacts released their report today. Here’s the new release.

Pre-Games impact study for 2010 Olympic Winter Games finds modest

Early results from a comprehensive study that measures the impact of the
Olympic Games during the first four years of the organizing phase finds
Canada’s decision to host the 2010 Games has helped boost its medal
count and led to an increase in the number of businesses in Vancouver
and Whistler.

Meanwhile, the results on issues such as housing and the environment
remain inconclusive in this initial period.

The Olympic Games Impact (OGI) Pre-Games Report, led by University of
British Columbia Prof. Rob VanWynsberghe, is the second of four studies
required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to measure the
overall impact of the 2010 Winter Games.

The OGI uses 126 IOC-mandated indicators to measure the economic, social
and environmental conditions of the host city, region and country. The
current study measures changes in the Metro Vancouver area between 2002
and 2006, compared to baseline data from 2001.

“Our approach to OGI is designed to explore whether or not the Games
have had an impact on the host, if that impact is positive or negative,
and where possible, to determine the size of the impact,” VanWynsberghe
says. “So far, in combining the social, economic and environmental
spheres we see a slight positive impact.”

VanWynsberghe, from the School of Human Kinetics and Department of
Educational Studies in the UBC Faculty of Education, will work with
researchers to table the two remaining OGI reports in 2010 and 2013.

“Our findings will help guide future bidders and organizing committees
to maximize the benefits of the Games and create a standard by which all
future Games will be measured,” VanWynsberghe says.

The OGI Study was developed by the IOC to introduce a standardized
cross-Games method of monitoring, measuring and reporting on the impact
of hosting the Olympic Games. Beginning with the Vancouver Games, all
Olympic organizing committees are contractually required to undertake
the OGI Study in conjunction with an independent research organization,
allowing the IOC to build a long-term understanding of Games impacts.

The three reports to be delivered under the OGI research program are
funded by $300,000 from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010
Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) and a $300,000 in-kind
donation from UBC.

Key findings of the OGI-UBC Pre-Games Report:

Social impact
* The report cannot definitively attribute impacts on housing or
homelessness to the Games. The report finds a number of social housing
units are being built while others are simultaneously being lost. The
construction of new affordable housing and social housing units has not
kept pace with the number of homeless people.

* The hosting of the Games and the implementation of Own the Podium 2010
and Podium Canada, innovative programs to support Canada’s athletes and
coaches leading up to 2010, have helped improve Canada’s medal count in
elite amateur athletic competitions. The number of medals won at Olympic
Winter Games by Canadian athletes increased by 41 per cent, from 17
medals in 2002 (Salt Lake City) to 24 medals in 2006 (Torino). The
report also notes the overall rise in Canadian medals over the past
three Olympic Winter Games is virtually all due to improved performance
by female athletes.

Environmental impact
* The 2010 Games may have had an indirect negative (and possibly
temporary) impact on air quality in Whistler and nearby Squamish, likely
due in part to Games venue construction and other activities oriented
towards preparing the region for the 2010 Games. Air quality as a whole
in Metro Vancouver, however, improved between 2002 and 2006.

* The Games may have contributed to a decrease in greenhouse gas
emissions (GHG) and water consumption in British Columbia by stimulating
pro-environmental awareness and practices, either directly or
indirectly. However, the trend on both these fronts in B.C. after
2003/2004 suggests a move towards more environmentally friendly
practices and increased acceptance of the idea of sustainable
development that is likely to have existed regardless of the 2010 Games.

Economic impact
* The selection of Vancouver/Whistler as host of the 2010 Winter Games
likely contributed to the increase in the number of companies in Metro
Vancouver (by 17 per cent) and in the Squamish-Lillooet region (by 36
per cent). It is also plausible that the unemployment rate in B.C. has
been positively affected by the selection of Vancouver as the 2010 Games
host through an upsurge in employment opportunities.

* Vancouver seems to enjoy increasing popularity as a place to host
international events (increase of 46 per cent between 2001/02 and
2006/07), which may in part be due to the upcoming 2010 Games. However,
the Olympic Games do not appear to have affected the number of tourists
to Vancouver in the time period of the study.

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