Friday, November 2, 2007

Grumps' Grumblings: When O stands for Owe

IF GRANDPA REACHES was running the 2010 Winter Olympics, he would be growling: "Knock it off!"
But the old shaman from the aging flick, Thunderheart, isn't involved, but someone has definitely conned British Columbians (probably both you and me) to fork out C$883 million ($914 million) for just a place for some button-downed and over-priced media types to plunk their (fat) rearends.
A definite shell game of Olympic proportions. And, if Canadian taxpayers had any gumption, they would be yelling in groves that they're being robbed blind by some slicksters in pinstripes.
Probably, you've read the story, but I had been oblivious to this travesty until running across a Reuters report out of Vancouver; and there in black and white it read right in the lead paragraph: "The rush to build Vancouver's new convention centre, which will be home to the media during the 2010 Winter Olympics, has caused the project's costs to skyrocket ..." Yadda, yadda, ya!
Now, I know the media, the report referred to, has to include those prime-time and pampered TV types, but closing in on a billion bucks for squatter's rights seems downright ludicrous. What are the lounges outfitted in refined gold with matching personal liquor cabinets and side dishes of filet mignon? For that cost overrun they should be.
Perhaps, there's a payoff after the short-lived Games are finally over, but let one of those Olympic tub-thumpers tell you the countless benefits of such a convention centre and then check your pockets (or purse).
Now, this Ol' Columnist enjoys the finer things of life (at least I can dream about them), but there was a time when I covered major events such as a string of Super Bowls, Indianapolis 500s, NHL playoff games and major-league soccer extravaganzas, and they all did cost mega-dollars, but close to a billion for international broadcasters and other media is enough to give the provincial auditor an Olympic-sized ulcer. And throw in a thumping heart murmur as well.
The luxury penthouse to house thousands of yahoos from parts unknown might be swell in telling their grandchildren what luxurious working conditions they were given in downtown Vancouver, but at who's expense?
Of course, my false teeth started to grind even more when I realized the plans for this centre began in 2002 and the Ottawa and Victoria politicians apparently offered a projected budget of C$495 million.
Now five years later, it's up to C$883 million and you can bet, with inflation and design changes, it'll be even higher when the Games begin.
And for what? Prestige? No, for the right to say to our children and grandchildren that we couldn't afford to pay for it in our lifetime, so kiddies, you'll have the privilege of dealing with it down the road.
Once upon a time -- back on Nov. 13, 2006 -- the price tag was a measly $615 million, according to a Vancouver Sun reporter, and Tourism, Sports and the Arts Minister Stan Hagen was seeking a further provincial handout.
Don't you just love it when they start throwing around a million or a hundred million of your money?
So why did the price tag suddenly go through the stratosphere? Well, one bigwig claimed it was all so complicated and then there was something called "the perfect storm" whistling through the construction industry.
Since I have a headache from bantering about figures from C$495 million to $883 million and counting, I think I'll move on to what's waiting when the actual 2010 Winter Olympics begin.
Hidden away in all this backslapping and glad-handing was B.C. acting auditor general Arn van Iersel's terse report from Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006 in which he said the cost of Vancouver's version of the Big Owe would be a minimum of $2.5 billion and $1.5 billion would come from the province -- that's You and Me again. The Big Deal was, originally, supposed to cost, I think, in the neighbourhood of C$1.6 billion with the B.C. brass tossing in something like $600 million.
Van Iersel, at the time, claimed the pencil-pushers apparently sidestepped such things as Sea-to-Sky Highway upgrades ($775 mil); the B.C. Olympic Secretariat ($41 mil) and $8 mil for rapid transit to the athletes' village.
Just think, only three years away from watching the luge or the biathlon or my favorite, the bobsleigh showdowns.
C'mon, Uzbekistan.
MYTH CONCEPTIONS (From Uncle John's Bathroom Reader) -- Myth: The Great Wall of China is visible from the moon. Truth: No manmade objects are visible from that far out in space. According to astronomers, it's about as visible from the moon as a popsicle stick would be from 240 miles away ... Myth: S.O.S. stands for "Save Our Ship." Truth: It doesn't stand for anything -- it was selected as a distress signal because it's easy to transmit in Morse code: 3 dots, 3 dashes, 3 dots.

No comments: