Security for 2010 games will cost $900M

Posted by admin on Feb 20th, 2009

Thu. Feb. 19 2009. News Staff

The security budget for the 2010 Winter Olympics will be $900 million, government officials said Thursday, ending months of rampant speculation about the massive figure. Initially, Olympic officials estimated that security costs for the Games would come in at only $175 million. Since then, that number has ballooned as security experts grappled with the massive undertaking of dealing with the expected flood of visitors, athletes and officials.

The delay in releasing the number was blamed on protracted cost-sharing negotiations between different levels of government.

The announcement, which caps off a year of negotiations, was made by federal and provincial officials in Victoria Thursday afternoon.

Under a complex new agreement, Ottawa will pay $647.5 million and British Columbia will cover $252.5 million. The federal government has also agreed to pay any unexpected costs that could arise in the future.

But only a portion of the provincial funds will go towards security.

The deal will see Ottawa handle the lion’s share of security costs but will result in less federal funding for provincial infrastructure projects over the next three years.

The federal infrastructure funds were laid out in Ottawa’s massive stimulus last month and were to be matched by provincial money.

In real terms, B.C. will only pay $87.5 million for security and will spend an additional $165 million on infrastructure spending. That extra spending comes as the province prepares to spend $14 billion over the next three years to help jump-start the economy.

According to opposition New Democrat Leader Carole James, the plan is misleading and is a “back-and-forth shell game” designed to hide the true costs.

She added that the government still hasn’t addressed how the new spending fits into the initial provincial Olympic price tag of $600 million, which was made in 2002.

“I think the public wants to know, is it going to cost us more? And they got the answer today from the government, yes,” said James.

“Government still didn’t come clean on the real cost of the Olympics — they’ve basically just added this amount to the $600 million, which is still a number that nobody believes.”

But B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen said the deal avoids any funding shortfalls and ensures the government won’t have to divert money away from other programs like health in order to meet provincial obligations.

“I’m not trying to pretend that somehow the total cost of us delivering on our obligations … is somehow still at $600 million. I fully accept that meeting that obligation is now costing $765 million.”

Until now, both the B.C. government and Ottawa have remained tight-lipped about the final figure as some experts estimated that it would balloon to $1 billion.

Last week, Public Safety Minster Peter Van Loan said that the government had no role in tabling the initial $175-million figure.

“I don’t know how that number ($175 million) was arrived at but everyone knows that number is not a realistic number,” he said.

Security for the games will be headed up by the RCMP and will include more than 8,000 personnel from local police and the Canadian Forces.


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