Economic benefits likely to be seen when Games are over

Its presence can be felt at the Bay Centre, in the lounge at Oak Bay Rec and even driving down McKenzie Avenue, where there are streetlights decked out with celebratory banners.

Almost anywhere else in Greater Victoria, it’s hard to know that one of the biggest sporting events in the world kicks off in B.C. today.

David McLean, who formerly chaired the Victoria Spirit Committee and Greater Victoria Olympic Communities Committee, wanted to see more Olympic presence in the region.

“We tried to get curling to come across to Victoria and we said, ‘Let’s flatten it out and make it really a B.C. bid.’ We were signaled very strongly, ‘No, this is Vancouver-Whistler,’” he said.

The promotion of Victoria’s sports facilities as potential Games training centres didn’t turn out as well as hoped, either. “We had a few (athletes training here),” McLean said. “I know we were hoping for more in the hockey world. But we’ve had some of the curlers. And Mount Washington has done very well. So when you look at it from a whole Island point of view, I think we’ve done very well.”

In 2003, McLean identified four main areas with economic potential: protocol visits, cultural events, practice facilities and exhibition games.

Though, arguably, only the first three panned out, he said he still expects Victoria to see an economic boost from the Games.

Kelsi Woodward with Tourism Victoria agreed, adding that the potential for attracting visitors in the peak tourist season will be easier.

“The anticipated benefit will be the down the road exposure, and that’s what was always expected,” she said.

kslavin@saanichnews.com