VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Organizers of next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, facing a potential budget crunch, said on Thursday they want employers to lend them up to 1,500 short-term workers for the Games.
Similar worker-loan programs have been used in past Olympics, but organizers of the 2010 Games acknowledged their plan was bigger and said it reflected “the realities of the economic downturn”.
The Vancouver organizers have found themselves looking at the possibility of a budget shortfall, in part because the International Olympic Committee has yet to sign up all the worldwide sponsors that had been expected to help fund the Canadian Games’ C$1.75 billion ($1.62 billion) operating budget.
“While the final value and number of loaned employees will not be known for several months, the program will result in significant savings to VANOC’s operational budget,” the Vancouver Organizing Committee said.
VANOC said it has always anticipated using some seconded employees, but staff would still have to be hired directly if workers can’t be borrowed from outside companies who would pay their salaries, officials said.
“We do have a secondment program now. I don’t think we would have gone out publicly now with as lofty a goal ... it will likely be a bigger program because we want to reduce our budget risk,” said Executive Vice-President Dave Cobb.
VANOC wants to borrow workers who already live in the Vancouver area because housing conditions for the Games, to be held in February in this Pacific Coast city, are already looking tight.
Jobs that need to be filled range from a few high-level management posts to snow and trash haulers.
VANOC’s original budget called for it to have 1,400 paid long-term staff and 3,500 temporary staff when the Games begin, although that number was scaled back slightly in January because of the slowing economy.
Those workers will be backed up by 25,000 volunteers and 10,000 contractors. In addition, the Canadian government expects to bring in 7,000 police officers, 5,000 troops and hundreds of private security guards.
VANOC said companies began contacting it on Thursday, almost immediately after the announcement went out.
It expects some firm hit by the slowing economy will want to lend employees who are being under-employed now, but who they do not want to lose before the economy turns around.
VANOC has touted job creation as one of the economic benefits of Vancouver hosting the Olympics, but Cobb said using borrowed employees should have only a limited impact on that promise.
Reporting by Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson