Saturday, September 6, 2008



Torontonians, along with all those Canadians who are jealous of Toronto, should look back on the Beijing Olympics with gladness that it didn't happen in Toronto.
Sure the waterfront would have been transformed. (And some construction companies would have had record profits.) Sure the eyes of the world would have been on Toronto for several weeks. (If that is so important to you, move to New York.) Sure the rest of Canada could have basked in the reflected glory. (If they don't like us when we pay more than our share of federal taxes, they may not like us even then.)
What wouldn't have been so nice is that we would have had a Olympic-record debt that would not be paid off for the rest of our lives. All of us. Every Canadian.
And I don't want to hear someone shouting from the cheap seats that the Montreal Olympics has been paid off, sort of, and it's only been a few decades. The Beijing Olympics was so expensive, their costumes and fireworks would have bankrupted most Third World countries.
I had a taste of how the aging rulers of China were breaking their bank over their Olympics a couple of years ago when on a visit I found that the infrastructure in Beijing already made Toronto look like a shabby hamlet.
I will stay away from giving cost figures here because I don't believe anything that any government has to say about costs. From Canadian Conservatives and Toronto councillors to the dictators of China and Olympics bureaucrats, they all lie like a kid in the house with an empty cookie jar.
So if they say that the Beijing Olympics cost $40 billion or $400 billion or $400 trillion, it doesn't particularly matter because I don't believe them.
All I do is thank God or Allah or Buddah or Zeus that I'm not paying for it. We dodged the bullet, but it may well hit us in Vancouver after the Frozen Games.
Even the fallout from Toronto's failed Olympic bid was costly, and I'm not talking about the expenses of the usual suspects behind the Toronto bid, or our futile attempt to entertain or con every tinpot jerk and faded royalty associated with the IOC.
We used the bid as an excuse to tear down Exhibition Stadium even though it was built so well, it cost $5 million to demolish it, which just happened to be the money that had been set aside from each ticket to pay for improvements. We improved the stadium by tearing it down. Thank heavens Toronto City Hall only can ruin within the city limits because with such thinking, every famed bit of infrastructure in the world would have been improved right out of our sight.
(Of course, a decade later, the same chuckleheads built a smaller stadium just a few yards away from Exhibition Stadium. The cost in land and construction was over $70 million, but it ended up in control of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which has already made a profit of double the money that it contributed. That outfit knows how to make money but not how to win Stanley Cups. Obviously it's more in the money business than the sports business. It should sicken the voters when they see how MLSE gets control of facilities when it pays far less than taxpayers do. Another example is the Ricoh Colosseum. I used the name to distinguish it from the much grander one in Rome which would never have lasted 2,000 years with the thinking of this City Hall.)
The scheme behind the Toronto bid was to build grand structures that could be used for a NFL team and other toys of billionaires who are so rich because they manage to get us to pay for their dreams. Oh yes, it would have allowed them to tear down the Gardiner expressway, ignoring that in major cities like Beijing, they are still building such workhorse roads, although they never allow them to look as unsightly as the Gardiner. Beijing has more flowers along 100 metres of their expressways than Toronto has along the Gardiner, Don Valley, 401 and 427. But with the construction industry pulling hidden strings at City Hall, the socialists are always after the Gardiner pretending it's for our good, not theirs. They even cheat on the usage figures, and of course, the costs.
What is forgotten about the Toronto bid is that the clutch and grab of volunteers who put together the documents, with the help of the usual costly consultants and millions of tax dollars, did so while ignoring the rest of us. They may say there was consultation but I can tell you as someone active in the affairs of the Exhibition that they just drew their pretty structures without regard for the views of those who actually thought they controlled the lands.
The annual fair, car race and trades shows would have been eliminated for a year with no promise of compensation. Some of this would have been eased by an Olympics in late June, when the weather is usually better here than late August, but that argument was dismissed with a laugh. I have been president of the board of directors which runs the CNE and vice chair of the board of governors which is the landlord and controls the park. I can assure there was no consultation on how the Olympic bureaucrats would have changed one of the major venues, tearing down any building that was in the way.
Now this is ancient history in the world of Toronto politics but I remind you of it because there will always be someone at City Hall wanting us to bid on some games or exposition or world junior tiddly winks championship. There will always be grandiose promises of the benefits, of the world attention, all the money flooding in. Ad nauseum, and mostly BS.!
You must never forget the hangover.
Remember when everyone goes home and the locals are left trying to figure out how to use purpose built facilities which just had to last for two weeks. Remember the tax bills from City Hall and Queen's Park which can't even handle the tasks they have now. All the city councillors know how to do is threaten to close pools, not to build bigger ones with exercise rooms that don't look like a failed fitness club.
Sure it's nice to see that China put on a grand spectacle, even if the aerial fireworks pictures were souped up by computer. Even the controversies were rather minor. Having a cute kid pretend to sing a song is hardly unusual because the same thing is done for most anthems at the Roger Centre. So what if some Chinese acrobats were too young. What about the East Germans who used to have men compete as women. Or was it the other way around? What about the 100 metres where every finalists was presumed to be on drugs but the Canadian lost because he spoke thickly and the gutless Canadian officials didn't support him.
In Beijing, it's back to normal. Smog is back over Beijing. The millions of homeless can sneak back into the big cities. The poor can starve. Prayer meetings will land you in prison if you're not careful. No mass demonstrations. It really doesn't matter what the dictators do because the world will trade with you as long as you space out the killings of students on the largest square in the world.
Here in Canada, we should be thankful that the games of sports we seldom watch was not held in its largest city. And we should worry about what happens in Vancouver once the politicians and bureaucrats start trying to show off to the world.