Matrix: Were the 2010 Olympics a win for B.C.?

From housing to transit, we look back at how the Games helped shape the past decade

Credit: iStock

From housing to transit, we look back at how the Games helped shape the past decade

Ten years ago this month, some 2,600 athletes from around the globe were gearing up to head to the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Whether or not you loved the massive party that followed, it’s tough to dispute that the Olympics made a profound impact on the city and the province. And we’re not just talking about chugging beer out of pitchers, à la men’s skeleton champ Jon Montgomery.

Let’s call it even

Your mileage on the 2010 Games may vary, but there’s no doubt that in the eyes of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it was a huge success.

According to the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), the 2010 medal fest broke even. That’s a far cry from some Olympics before and after: Athens (2004, reported loss of US$14.5 billion) and Rio de Janiero (2016, US$2 billion in the hole) are two recent horror stories the IOC wants you to forget.

Instead, the organization would prefer to talk about examples like Vancouver, though it did take four years for the City to break even–and only after selling condos created for the Games.

The million-dollar question

Speaking of which, some analysts have tried to connect Vancouver’s housing crisis to the Olympics. It’s hard to find a direct link, but you can’t deny that the timing of the two events feels a little more than coincidental.

Urban planner Andy Yan, for one, has noted that while the housing affordability problem started before the Games, it worsened soon after. Then there’s the fact that Olympic Village, first billed as a mecca for affordable shelter, was quickly turned into market housing after the athletes departed.

Whistler wonderland

The Games transformed life in a skiing village two hours north of Vancouver. Sure, property values here have skyrocketed, but Whistler has also developed into a place where people can actually live year-round.

In fact, the mountain town and its neighbour, Squamish, have ranked second and first, respectively, on our Best Cities for Work in B.C. list for two years in a row. An upgraded Sea-to-Sky Highway, new sports facilities and an influx of media coverage greatly improved Whistler’s ability to attract and keep tourists, too.

Green sweep

The 2010 Games “increased awareness and set new standards” for environmental sustainability, according to the IOC. The committee cites the construction of every venue according to Canada’s green-building standards and the pioneering design of the Richmond Oval, which captures rainwater on its roof and recycles waste heat energy. The Winter Olympics also featured the “most ambitious carbon management programme at any Games.”

A fine Line

Like Expo 86 and SkyTrain, the biggest remnant from the 2010 Winter Games is the Canada Line. Was making Cambie Street a walking construction zone for three years worth it? Public transport advocates would say yes, absolutely.

The ability to get people from the airport to downtown Vancouver in less than 30 minutes via transit can’t be overestimated, even if taking the trip comes with a brutal extra fee. And even if it’s not quite as fashionable as taking an Uber.