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  • The View From Here: Is Legacy Worth the Olympics?


    02/23/10

    The Richmond Olympic Oval will become a community recreation center after the Games. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) Is legacy an over-rated idea for the Olympics? Is it simply an excuse to allow host cities or host nations to launch grandiose projects without regard to cost or sustainability?

    Talk like this might be seen as heresy, given the way legacy seems to have crowded out sport as the reason to host an Olympic Games.

    Athens and Beijing may be the most recent examples of largess gone amok. Unused stadiums after the Games, millions (billions) spent on facilities – for what?

    In Beijing, the estimate on spending climbs as high as $30 billion.

    While the IOC has always said that what a city spends on an Olympics is its own business and not based on requirements by the IOC, massive budgets for Olympic Games-inspired projects could discourage bids from cities fearful of getting caught in spending quicksand.
    The bill isn’t fully calculated for Vancouver, but the investments made for the 2010 Games are significant.

    On the bricks and mortar side, there’s the revamped Sea-to-Sky Highway, the must-have transport project that cost $600 million to build. Needed for more than the Olympics, the improved highway is supposed to provide a faster, safer journey to Whistler for years to come.

    The skating oval in Richmond is the single biggest venue built for these Olympics. Its $200 million price tag was paid for by VANOC and the city of Richmond. The oval will become a community recreation center after the Games.

    But few if any other host cities will undergo preparations for the 2014 Games that Sochi -- the first host in Russia for a Winter Olympics – has. As much a national
    Around the Rings Editor Ed Hula is in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games. (ATR)
    project as one for the region of Sochi, the Winter Olympics mean new roads and airport. A new rail line will connect the ski venues to the ones on the Black Sea. And finally, Sochi will get an ice rink, a venue that it seems should already exist in such a major Russian city.

    London 2012 is wrestling now with maximizing its legacy for the Games, one that includes major structures such as the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Village. More intriguing may be efforts to forge a Games legacy that generates a resurgence of interest in Olympic sports among young people -- not just in Britain, but globally, too.

    UK Sport, the organization responsible for elite sport development, thinks the Games mean opportunity for a new generation of sports leaders from the U.K. to take their place at the top of international sports federations – as well as put the U.K. in a position to host other major sports events.

    But is the payoff of a world championship worth the investment?

    Will a new stadium return benefits as valuable as money spent for schools or other social needs?

    As legacy grows as a rationale for hosting the Games, answers will be needed if the Olympic Movement expects a healthy competition for the Games in the future.

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    Written by Around the Rings Editor Ed Hula.

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