There were many momentous moments in business during 2010, some good, some very bad. I’m opting for the good: The 2010 Vancouver Olympics was the business story of the year.
Usually, as we near the end of the year, media operations pick the top stories of the previous year. In B.C. Business’s case, it’s the top business stories of the year.
Obviously, I can’t get all of them into a blog, so I’m going to arbitrarily pick what I believe to be the top business story in B.C. in 2010.
The problem is that I’m conflicted. I have two strong candidates: The HST and the Olympics.
The HST is top of mind right now, of course. And it was certainly a doozie of a story.
The Liberal government didn’t mention a word about it in the last election. If anything, it pooh pooh-ed the idea during the campaign. Then suddenly, this year it said "oops, things have changed and we have to institute the tax. It will be a great boost for the provincial economy. Besides," it added, "the feds are throwing millions at us to do it."
Governors didn’t realize apparently what a firestorm that would create. This is B.C., after all, which is cantankerous at the best of times. So, all the old (and often false) arguments were raised with new vigor: It was a tax that “benefited” business at the expense of the little guy; it was a new tax; it would ruin the economy.
The firestorm grew and grew. Tens of thousands of people signed petitions against the “new” tax, marched in the streets, bellowed their anger at the media. Eventually the chorus of complaints swamped the government and Premier Gordon Campbell had to resign, plunging us into a leadership race in both main parties.
The Olympics, on the other hand, formed a good-news business story. There was plenty of kvetching about the cost before the event, but once they began in February, everybody put away their complaining and had a rocking good time. It was probably one of the greatest events in Vancouver history.
Even better, it was a grand party that didn’t leave a financial hangover. The 2010 Olympics apparently broke even, if you count the fiddling and “top-ups” required for the recession. In all, the Vancouver organizing committee said it spent $1.86 billion to put on the games. Organizers said 91 per cent of revenues came from corporate sources, and the provincial and federal governments and the International Olympic Committee chipped in the other nine per cent.
Further, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, the Olympics have so far generated $2.5 billion for B.C., including some $851 million put into the provincial economy in the first three months of 2010. Earlier reports into the potential economic impact of the Olympics suggested the games could bring as much as $4.1 billion into the economy, through to 2015.
So, a bad news story for the Business Story Of The Year, or a good news story?
Since it’s Christmas, and I’m a positive kind of guy anyway – really, I am, underneath – I’m voting for the good news. Let’s end a momentous year with a smiley face.
I’m voting for the Vancouver Olympics as the business story of 2010.