VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee has assured organizers of next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver it will help with a potential budget gap caused by the global recession, officials said on Wednesday.
Canadian organizers have warned they face a significant budget shortfall because of the worldwide economic downturn.
Among the most pressing issues is a potential C$30 million ($27 million) revenue shortfall because the IOC has only been able to sign up nine of the 11 worldwide corporate sponsors expected when Vancouver’s C$1.7 billion operating budget was prepared.
Specifics of the IOC’s offer were not released, but Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) officials said it gave them the assurance they needed with the opening of the Games in the Western Canadian city now less than six months away.
“With the commitment the IOC has made to us and the contingency we had in our budget I am now extremely confident we will achieve our targets,” Dave Cobb, VANOC’s executive vice-president said following meetings with IOC officials.
The IOC panel that is overseeing preparations for the Games was in Vancouver for its final visit before the competitions begin, and its leader lavished praise on VANOC’s readiness for the event.
“I really feel confident we will have a fantastic Games,” panel Chairman Rene Fasel told a news conference.
Both VANOC and the IOC downplayed suggestions that the issue of corporate sponsorship had caused a rift between the two groups.
Canadian organizers had vowed the Games would have a balanced budget, but they have found themselves struggling with the impact of the economic downturn.
VANOC was able to meet its target for domestic corporate sponsorship revenue, but has abandoned predictions made before the recession that it would be able to exceed its nearly C$760 million goal.
Local organizing committees get a percentage of the revenues raised by the IOC from international sponsors, and there have been suggestions the shortfall would be replaced by giving VANOC more money from international broadcast fees.
VANOC’s Cobb said the IOC did not promise to replace the entire shortfall, and said it could end up being less than C$30 million if new sponsors are signed before the Games begin in February.
The threat of a revenue shortfall has also forced VANOC to look at cost-cutting.
Chief Executive John Furlong said organizers have received a good response to requests to local employers to lend them up to 1,500 short-term employees who will be needed in the weeks leading up and during the Games.
Reporting by Allan Dowd