Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Vancouver officials mum on cost of security for Games

AGENCIES , VICTORIA, CANADA, AND MOSCOW

The mystery of security costs for the 2010 Olympics continues despite the fact that the Canadian and British Columbia governments, who are paying the bill, have both released their operating budgets for the next year.

British Columbia released its budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year on Tuesday, with officials saying the spending plan included the province’s share of the expected security costs, even if Ottawa will not allow it to even estimate publicly what that would be.

“Trust me, there is probably no one in this room who is more anxious to have that on the table than me,” provincial Finance Minister Colin Hansen told reporters being briefed on the C$39.3 billion (US$31 billion) spending plan.

The budget forecasts a deficit of nearly C$500 million because of the slowing economy.

The federal government released its budget last month, but has declined to say how much of its security-related spending for next year was directed at protecting the thousands expected in Vancouver during the Winter Games next February.

Officials had estimated the cost at C$175 million when Vancouver was first awarded the Games in 2003, but media reports now estimate the cost is likely closer to C$1 billion.

Hansen said the negotiations with Ottawa on how the costs are shared are in their final stages.

The sides have been haggling over what is considered an Olympic-related cost and what are costs that would be borne by police and the military even without the Games, said a provincial official familiar with the talks.

In related news, the economic crisis has hit preparations for the 2014 winter Games as Russian private firms shy away from bidding to build needed infrastructure in Sochi, Prime-TASS news agency said on Tuesday.

The report said local authorities were forced to extend tender deadlines for Olympic-related construction contracts because of a lack of interest from companies.

Authorities also faced mounting difficulty in acquiring land necessary for construction of Olympic infrastructure in Sochi because owners were refusing to sell at prices offered by the government.

The Austrian city of Salzburg, which lost out to Sochi for the right to host the 2014 winter games, said in November it was still prepared to do so if the Russian host was unable to complete construction in time.

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