2010 Winter Olympics provided economic and cultural boost

MEDIA RELEASE | www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/?p=30542

British Columbia’s economy grew in 2010 with new businesses, jobs and an increase in visitor spending, all likely related to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, says a University of British Columbia study that measured the impact of the Games.

In addition to the economic benefits, the report also noted other positive outcomes including the development of sport and culture across Canada, the inclusion and participation of Aboriginal groups and minorities and a heightened recognition of persons with disabilities.

“Throughout the Olympics and in the weeks immediately following, there was a real sense of success and pride among British Columbians and Canadians,” says Rob VanWynsberghe, lead author of the study. “These feelings were well-founded, some real success stories came out of these Games.”

The Olympic Games Impact (OGI) study Games-time report is the third in a series of four reports required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to measure the overall impact of the 2010 Winter Games. Led by VanWynsberghe, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC, the OGI study uses 126 IOC-mandated indicators to assess the social, economic and environmental impacts of the Olympics on Vancouver, Whistler, British Columbia and Canada.

The OGI study is now overseen by the Canadian Olympic Committee following the post-Games wrap-up of the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The COC will continue to support the OGI research at UBC over the next two years.

“This study confirms what we all saw during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games,” said COC President Marcel Aubut. “The sense of pride that swept up our nation was a turning point in our nation’s history. The Games injected millions into the local economy and great strides have been made in making these events more environmentally sound.”

The third in a series of four reports, this OGI report focused on the impact of the Olympics during Games-time, the winter of 2010. An initial report took baseline measurements of the region in 2001 and a second report measured the impact of the Games during the organizing phase. A final report, planned for 2013, will look at the long-term impact of the Games.

“Putting on mega-events like the Olympics directly impacts the local economy and the environment and this is where we saw the most significant findings in the OGI Games-time report,” says VanWynsberghe.

The Games-time study found that the creation of new jobs and businesses and an increase in visitor spending in British Columbia in 2010 was potentially related to the Games. Simultaneously, the province saw an increase in the cost of hotel stays, real estate prices and traffic at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Looking at the environmental impact, the OGI Games-time study found that Olympic-related greenhouse gas emissions increased every year following 2005, with an eight-fold increase during Games-time compared to the organizing period, likely due to full operation of all venues and transportation of Games participants and spectators to and around Vancouver. At the same time, researchers noted that low-impact modes of transportation exceeded personal vehicle use for travel in and out of Vancouver’s downtown core.

The Games-times report was unable to provide significant insight on social concerns such as homelessness and affordable housing, that surfaced in the lead up to the Olympics and Paralympics, because no new data was available at Games-time. The final OGI report, measuring the long-term impacts of the Games, is expected to provide more insight in these areas.

“If the goal is to make mega-events like the Olympics sustainable, then the OGI is an excellent first step in understanding the complexities involved,” says VanWynsberghe, who conducted this research through UBC’s Centre for Sport and Sustainability – a centre formed in 2010 to study how sport transforms cultures and communities.

“As researchers interested in the broader issue of sport mega-events, we can say that more work needs to be done to mitigate undesirable environmental and social impacts of hosting such events, while benefitting and learning from the positive aspects of the 2010 Games, especially in bringing the city, province and country together.”

The OGI study was developed by the IOC to introduce a standardized method of monitoring, measuring and reporting on the impact of hosting the Olympic Games.

Beginning with the 2010 Winter Games, all Olympic organizing committees are contractually required to undertake the OGI study.

“These reports help us evaluate our decision to host the Games as well as our collective efforts to deliver a world-class event and will also inform Olympic and mega-event planning in other cities and countries,” says VanWynsberghe.

“The OGI study has been an important research project for the Centre for Sport and Sustainability and has helped define our research on the legacies and sustainability of mega-events,” says Bob Sparks, the director of the centre, which was developed as a UBC legacy of the 2010 Games. “The study has given us a platform to bring together other researchers working in this field internationally to share theoretical approaches and knowledge.”

An additional outcome of the work on the UBC OGI project is that key components of the methodology developed by VanWynsberghe and his team are being used by the University of East London for the OGI study of the 2012 London Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is also anticipated that forthcoming changes in OGI will reflect the UBC-OGI experience.

Key findings of the UBC-OGI Games-time report:

Socio-cultural impacts
  • Inclusion – Aboriginal groups and minorities participated in the bidding, planning and staging of the Games. Data from opinion polls conducted before and after the Paralympic Games showed that public awareness of people with disabilities increased as a result of the Games.
  • Sport – Municipal, provincial and federal governments introduced policies and projects to leverage the Games, including a program for excellence in sport, Own the Podium, that likely increased the number of medals won by Canadian athletes.
  • Arts and culture – Arts and culture were a significant aspect of the hosting of the 2010 Games
  • Housing – There were no new data related to homelessness and affordable housing subsequent to the Pre-Games Report. The report noted that possible media attention and local advocacy efforts may have catalyzed government efforts to address these issues. The following OGI report is expected to provide further insight on these issues.
Economic impacts
  • Business and jobs – New businesses and new jobs were created that related directly to the Olympics such as venue operation, as well as indirectly such as hotel and restaurant jobs.
  • Real estate – Increases in the cost of hotel stays and in real estate prices in the year 2010 were both potentially due to the Games.
  • Tourism – Increases in YVR airport traffic (passenger and freight) and in visitor spending around the time of the Games were both potentially due to the 2010 Winter Games.
  • Tax revenue – The Games-time report conservatively estimates that the public sector benefited by at least $50 million (CAD) in total tax revenue from Olympic activities.
Environmental impacts
  • Greenhouse gas emissions – Data from VANOC showed that Olympic-related greenhouse gas emissions increased every year following 2005, with an eight-fold increase during Games-time compared to the organizing period, mainly due to transportation to and around Vancouver.
  • Mode of travel – During the Games, travel into and out of the downtown core (where many Games-related events were held) increased. During this period, the share of low-impact modes of travel into and out of the downtown core became the dominant mode of travel over personal vehicle use.
  • Energy consumption – Olympic-related energy consumption for facility operation and transportation during the Games was almost an equal share between fossil fuels and renewable sources. Most of the energy (80 per cent) was used for venues and facilities.


The full OGI Reports are available on the CSS Website at: www.css.ubc.ca/ogi-reports

Media Release – December 4, 2009: Pre-Games impact study for 2010 Olympic Winter Games finds modest benefits

Article – January 7, 2010: Games Inspire New Research Centre for Sport


Rob VanWynsberghe
Department of Educational Studies
Email: robert.vanwynsberghe@ubc.ca

Dimitri Soudas
Canadian Olympic Committee
Tel: 416.324.4136
Email: dsoudas@olympic.ca

Heather Amos
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.3213
Cell: 604.828.3867
Email: heather.amos@ubc.ca