Reuters - Sun, 28 Feb 21:36:00 2010
At the end of their six-year race for Olympic glory, the organisers of the Vancouver Games could be forgiven for looking a little smug.
The VANOC organising committee, headed by an Irishman who once captained Gaelic football teams, overcame world recession, bankrupt sponsors and fears that spectators would stay away in droves to deliver a Games that they say came in on time and on budget, and with every ticket sold.
"We have not changed our projections. We expect to finish the games with a balanced budget," VANOC head John Furlong said.
The committee had an operating budget of just over C$1.7 billion (£1.06bn) to cover both the Winter Olympics themselves and next month's Paralympics, although there is a lot of money from other sources too.
The operating budget did not include funding for the new Canada Line to the airport, or the widened Sea to Sky Highway to the mountain resort of Whistler, which will be two big legacies of the Games, or a C$900m (£562m) bill for security.
Governments paid C$585m (£366m) to build venues that included the fastest sliding track in the world in Whistler and a Vancouver speedskating arena that wows environmentalists with its eco-friendly design, and they may be on the hook for costs from the athlete villages in Vancouver and Whistler.
On the plus side, organisers say they are set to exceed the C$260m (£163m) they expected from ticket sales, even taking account of more than C$1m (£625,000) in refunds paid to people who had tickets for an ultimately waterlogged venue cancelled.
At least 250,000 visitors were expected to have made it to Vancouver, although final figures are not yet available.
"Every ticket that's been available has been sold. We have exceeded our expectations and exceeded our revenue forecasts," said Dave Cobb, VANOC's executive vice president.
"We were never sure we would be able to fill single seats that are always left over, so we allowed for the fact that one or two per cent of the seats would not be sold. We are selling those single tickets, so we're really selling 100 per cent."
Merchandise sales also beat the target, as patriotic pride painted Vancouver red and white. Organisers expect over C$90m (£56m) from merchandise sales, more than twice the target.
Vancouver organisers had promised before the Games they would avoid a problem of past Olympics, where tickets given to sponsors and other Olympic groups went unused - keeping the public out of events despite rows of empty seats.
There were hiccups too, of course, as would-be sponsors like telecommunications firm Nortel Networks filed for bankruptcy protection, and unusually warm weather forced VANOC to use trucks and helicopters to ship snow to a snow-starved Cypress, site of freestyle and snowboard events.
But organisers said that would not bust the budget, even if the choppers flew for eight hours a day right through to the closing ceremonies.