What price glory? : Myth persists the 94 Games made money & Print Media Review (89-94)
While Victoria’s 1994 Commonwealth Games may have briefly covered the city in glory, it’s important to remember this mega-sports event was largely taxpayer supported and did not make money.
“One of the justifications for picking up any baton and hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games is that the 1994 Victoria Games made money,” says Stan Bartlett, Chairperson of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria.
“This myth persists in Victoria despite evidence to the contrary that the 1994 Victoria Games simply did not make money.”
“This is troubling when you consider that in 2022, given today’s horrendous cost of land, labour and security, any mega sports event will likely cost $1.5-billion. That’s double the cost of the sewer treatment project,” says Bartlett.
It’s Grumpy Taxpayer’s position that a ‘realistic’ business case for Victoria’s 2022 Games bid must be soberly scrutinized by an independent financial firm. It must be also looked at by financial resources at the CRD to figure out the cost to the federal and provincial taxpayer, and the inevitable local tax levy on residents and business.
Grumpy Taxpayer$ examined the audited financial statements of the Commonwealth Games Society dated Nov. 30, 1994 and found that revenues were largely compliments of the taxpayers.
On revenues of $162.8-million, $62-million was contributed by federal taxpayers, $43.6-million from provincial taxpayers, and $2.7-million from municipal taxpayers. (The municipal share reported here by the Society can’t be reconciled with the various newspaper stories of the time that describe the 1994 Games as mired in financial controversy from the start. It put the municipal share at one point at more than $6.5-million for public works improvements, police security, cultural events and so on).
The Society closed its books with a ‘surplus’ of $6.2-million – arguably money left over after excessive taxpayer funding – which allowed an additional contribution to a legacy fund. The 1994 Commonwealth Games Legacy Fund, which supports high performance sports, started with $15.5-million in 1994 and now stands at about $20-million.
On assets of about $35-million, the Capital region benefited from various legacy capital projects such as the Saanich Commonwealth Place ($16-million), a pool operations fund ($4-million), Juan de Fuca Rec Centre ($4.7-million), and the University of Victoria sports facilities and housing ($11.2-million).
Lastly, the final report of the 1994 Games, called ‘Let the Spirit Live On,’ also cites briefly various economic benefits which are impossible to prove or verify.
It claims the federal and provincial governments recovered about 40 per cent of their contribution through income and sales taxes. It claims about 2,700 jobs were created over three or four years contributing to a low unemployment rate. Supposedly the Games created $500-million in economic activity (or did that include the provincial infrastructure projects that were going to occur anyway?). Tourism increased in 1994 by $50-million to $800-million in Greater Victoria (or was the weather good that year?).
An important part of the final accounting includes substantial provincial infrastructure improvements to prepare for the Games: The province fast-tracked BC Ferries’ two new S-Class super ferries ($268-million), redeveloped the Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay ferry terminals (($77-million), built the Pat Bay/MacKenzie Ave. interchange, ($60-million), the Pat Bay Highway/Wain Road interchange ($15-million), plus made other unspecified highway improvements.
Newspaper reports at the time discuss a $13-million budget for security, with Ottawa picking up the lion’s share and Victoria and Saanich each contributing $1.1-million. There’s no information on the cost for customs, border security, and the Armed Forces.
Add it all up and taxpayers coughed up a monumental amount of funds for operational costs and infrastructure upgrades and got sports infrastructure and an elite sports legacy in return.
Even though the 1994 Games brought benefits to the Capital region, one thing it didn’t do was ‘make money.’
‘Let the spirit live on,‘ Final report of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, 1994.
Victoria Commonwealth Games Society, Audited financial statements to Nov. 30, 1994, KPMG Accountants.
Times Colonist, various news stories and columns, 1989-94.
The economic gamble behind hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Times Colonist op-ed column June 21, 2017
Stan Bartlett, Chair, Grumpy Taxpayer$
John Treleaven, 1st Vice-chair, Grumpy Taxpayer$
250.656.7899, cell 250.588.7899