The Olympic Experience

The Olympic Experience

I was going to write something very business-like about the Olympics, something about the returns to invesment for Vancouver or Canada or something like that. On second thought, though, at this point I’d don’t know that anyone can really do justice to the topic without makling some, well, Olympian assumptions.

Let me back up a bit and say I was lucky enough to be in Vancouver for the Olympics. Not for all of them, but I was there for four days, enough to gasp at the luck of the people who live in Vancouver (I nearly wept to see that there were flowers out in February) and be awed by the performance of Joannie Rochette in the Ladies Short Program (the word courage is being used a lot, and its apt, but I think at even better word is focus).

Given that, my comments on the return on investment are really more about what i saw anecdotally than the tally of what was spent/what was earned. What I saw was a LOT of people squished into Robson Square, long lines for the zip line ride above it, and apparent two hour waits to get into the Bay’s ‘Olympic Superstore’.

I also saw no real Olympic impact on the less touristy parts of town. Where I stayed, in West Vancouver, it was pretty much business as usual, a sentiment echoed by the merchants I talked to. There were no crowds beyond the usual in Chinatown, and one taxi driver I talked to said he was actually doing worse than usual since the traffic downtown was moving so slow. As for the Bay, the non-Olympic Superstore part of the store looked like a tomb to me, acres of men’s ties and pillowcases that nobody was particularly interested in buying.

I’ll be interested in seeing any final tally on economic impact, once some busy economist gets a hold of the real numbers and crunches them. Eventually we’ll get good numbers on money spent by tourists and all that.

To really know the lasting impact of the games though, you’d have to make an assumption about how Vancouver played in the international media and how many people are choose it for their next vacation. I’m bullish on that one. Tourism is the growth industry of the future – and from what I could see, the Olympics were an awesome trailer of why you should spend your travel dollars coming to Canada.

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