By eliminating stand-alone venues and running multiple events at the same location, organizers will save significant costs, ease transportation anxiety, help with security and provide a better experience for the fans in 2015.
“I’d say we’ve changed 60 per cent from what was in the bid to improve it, which is not uncommon,” Ian Troop, the CEO of TO 2015, said in a rare interview Thursday.
Under attack for allegedly being over-budget and behind schedule, Troop went on the offensive against his critics, speaking candidly for the first time about the status of the Games and rumours of a financial meltdown.
“When you’ve got a team working hard to make good progress and you’ve got so much good news to talk about, seeing things coming from self-styled experts which (are) so outrageously wrong — you start trying to ignore them (but) it’s so consistently wrong and consistently negative — that I guess it’s time to stand up and talk about it,” he said.
Specifically, Troop wanted to respond to another open letter from Olympic icon Paul Henderson, who has previously suggested the 2015 Games are anywhere between $1.4 billion and $2.5 billion over-budget. The original budget — not including the $1 billion athlete’s village — was $1.4 billion.
Henderson, who ran Toronto’s failed 1996 Olympic bid and is respected in many sports circles, has accused organizers of ignoring simple solutions to save money, such as hosting the Para Pan and Pan American Games at the same time, rather than consecutively.
In his latest rebuke, Henderson calls one of the Games’ marquee venues, the Scarborough aquatics centre at the University of Toronto satellite campus, a “White Elephant near the Zoo” that is not in the best interest of the community or athletes.
Said Troop: “He’s wrong. What he’s doing is wrong. And it’s got to stop, or the athletes he purports to serve and the legacy he wants to create, he’s going to destroy.”
University of Toronto chancellor David Peterson seemed to back that up, saying the pool is “win, win, win” for the underserved Scarborough community, students and athletes.
“Paul sends me three emails a day ... I think (TO 2015) is doing really, really well,” Peterson said. “They’ve got a great group.”
On the Para Pan suggestion, Troop says the Para Pan sports body wants the games run separately so they can “have their time in the sun.” (A provincial source says the TO 2015 team had initially proposed a parallel games.)
On the financial issue, Troop points to the fact TO 2015 has spent only 2.5 per cent of its budget — which he claims, for the record, is virtually identical to the one presented in the 2009 bid book.
Troop refused to comment on the financial specifics, but the Star obtained a recent provincial financial document that suggests the TO 2015 team is within about $20 million of the original 2009 figure: $1,428,569,000.
According to the confidential report, the total expenditure for the Games will be $1,505,230,621. Subtract the Markham-funded fieldhouse and provincially funded Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, and the total net spending is $1,448,970,621.
Much of the criticism directed by Henderson and others towards the TO 2015 team has to do with its secrecy. The 2009 bid was the last significant public update about the Games’ status, including its financials and construction timelines.
Troop says the organization’s hands are tied until government approvals have been given. Last week, the federal government approved the most recent business model, written in July 2011. The province is expected to follow suit by next week.
“Once that’s done we’ll be able to be much more transparent,” Troop said. For example, organizers will soon be able to reveal the new, clustered venue map, he said.
But one potential issue with this new strategy is that the 2015 event is supposed to be one for the entire Golden Horseshoe.
Originally, as many as 50 potential venues were scattered across the region, from Niagara and Hamilton to Mississauga and Brampton to Pickering and Oshawa and points north, with the majority of events taking place in Toronto.
Troop says that, “for the most part,” organizers have been able to cluster events “without sacrificing the regionality.”
Reached Thursday afternoon, Henderson said he was not surprised that Troop lashed out.
“But if he’s clustering events, well, I’ve been saying to do that all along,” he said. “It’s about bloody time.”