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Vancouver stages good-news presser about Olympic Village debt, but raises a dust storm of questions about numbers

April 29th, 2014 · 30 Comments

As those of you who were on Twitter yesterday know, there was a lot of uproar at Vancouver city hall yesterday as journalists tried to make sense of the numbers swirling around like a meteor shower as the mayor and city manager attempted to make the case that the city had turned the Olympic village lead into gold.

My basic story is here, but many of us are still trying to sort out the numbers. You can see from the variety of ways that reporters tackled the story yesterday/today how tough it was.

The document I relied on was the most recent report from the receiver, Ernst & Young, which laid out all the money that has been brought in since the receivership started and what all the costs were, from the strata fees the city had to cover for empty condos to remediation of suites to marketing. (Weirdly, people from the city didn’t seem to know how to reconcile their own numbers with what was in the receiver’s report, which made it hard for all of us to figure it out.)

But that report doesn’t explain many of the other murky aspects of the Olympic Village financial situation.

As I’ve been noting on Twitter, I still have a lot of questions that I’m not sure I know the answers to.

For example:

– City manager Penny Ballem said that, besides the $411 million the city netted from all of its sales, the $68 million it got from seizing the properties of the developer Millennium, and the most recent $91 million from Aquilini, it also got $200 million in pre-sales before the receivership started. So that all added up to $770 million.

So what’s the financial story for the other $330 million that is supposedly part of what has always been called a $1.1-billion project. Presumably $100 million is what was lost from the original promise of a $200-million purchase price for the land. That leaves $230-million to try to understand. The social housing cost $110 million. So then there’s $120 million left. What’s that about?

– Understanding the amenities part. We’ve been told it cost the city $200 million to build all the amenities for Southeast False Creek — presumably the community centre, the plaza, the public art, the two small parks and the walkways. I’m still not clear on whether only $75 million of that was directly for the Olympic Village (as city manager Penny Ballem tossed in on the whiteboard numbers, somewhere near the end of our little group shouting match yesterday at the hall) and whether the $200 million has all been spent or that’s the total bill for all amenities, present and future, for the entire area.

I’m sure all of you have a dozen questions apiece as well. Let the amateur forensic accounting begin.


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