January 20, 2009 / 9:55 PM / 9 years ago

No big cuts seen in new 2010 Games budget

RICHMOND, British Columbia (Reuters) - The budget for the 2010 Winter Olympics has been adjusted to reflect the weaker economy, but has not been cut significantly, a senior official of the Vancouver Games said on Tuesday.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) still expects to meet its revenue goals, although economic conditions have made corporate sponsors more cautious in their spending, said David Cobb, VANOC’s executive vice president.

“Whereas six months ago we may have thought we would significantly exceed our revenue targets, we’ve been more conservative, and believe we’ll achieve them. But some of the upside is gone,” Cobb said.

“We hope that (the more optimistic target) comes back at some point. We still have 13 months until the Games,” Cobb told reporters at the Olympic speed skating facility in Richmond, British Columbia, where VANOC was announcing a new corporate sponsor.

VANOC’s board is expected to vote on Wednesday on its revised budget, although organizers said the budget will not be made public immediately.

The current operating budget for the Vancouver Games is about C$1.62 billion ($1.28 billion). The budget, which does not include venue construction, is funded by sales of tickets and merchandise along with sponsorship deals.

“There haven’t been a lot of cuts ... it is very similar in magnitude with the budget we prepared a couple of years ago,” said Cobb, adding that revisions involve reallocating spending.

VANOC’s board reviewed a revised budget last month, but told managers to keep working on the plan out of concern they have been overzealous in trimming expenses.

Vancouver organizers are still committed to operating under a balanced budget, Cobb said.

VANOC is responsible for negotiating deals with Canadian sponsors, while global sponsorships are negotiated by the International Olympic Committee, which shares some of its revenue with Games’ host.

All domestic sponsors are meeting their financial obligations, including Nortel Networks, which filed for creditor protection last week, officials said.

Cobb acknowledged VANOC has taken a public relations hit from the controversy surrounding construction of the athletes village project in Vancouver, which organizers are not directly involved in managing.

City officials are scrambling to refinance the C$1 billion project after private financing dried up last year due to concerns about rising construction costs and the ability of the project’s developer to sell the units as condominiums after the Games end.

The British Columbia and Canadian governments are providing $580 million to build competition venues for the Games. All the facilities are either completed and being tested, or nearly completed.

Taxpayers are also paying to upgrade highways and mass transit systems in conjunction with the Winter Games, but political officials and VANOC argue that this is not Olympic funding because the projects would have been undertaken eventually even without the Olympics.

($1=$1.27 Canadian)

Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Peter Galloway

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