Toronto 2015 PanAm Games to cost $2.5 billion; Ontario to cover overruns

TORONTO – The Ontario government is confident there won’t be any cost overruns for the 2015 Pan American Games, which is now budgeted to cost at least $2.5 billion, Tourism and Sport Minister Michael Chan said Wednesday.

Most big international sporting events go over budget, but the Toronto games are on track to stay within projected allocations, said Chan.

“In past games there were a lot of situations where capital projects were not able to be done on time or under budget, but at the moment all the capital projects are on time, and perhaps some of those are under budget,” he said.

Even though all three levels of government are helping to fund the Pan Am Games, it’s the Ontario government that will be on the hook if the event does go over budget.

Both opposition parties accused the Liberals of going out of their way to hide the costs of the games by speaking mostly about a $1.4 billion budget. That was the amount for the TO2015 organizing committee to deliver the games, and did not include almost $1.1 billion in additional costs, mainly to be borne by the province with some contributions from municipalities.

“This government is making a habit of playing cute when it comes to the real costs of the games,” New Democrat Paul Miller told the legislature.

“We are yet again being stonewalled by the government, and even more concerning is Ontario is the guarantor for any deficits, but the government still can’t tell us what the total price tag for the games will be.”

The largest portion of the extra $1.1 billion is $700 million to build the athletes village in Toronto. The province hopes to recoup $65 million when the units are turned into 253 affordable rental apartments, an 8,000-square-foot YMCA and 500 residences for George Brown College students after the games.

Provincial officials also revealed the security budget for the Pan Am Games is $206 million, a fraction of the nearly $900 million spent on security at the Vancouver Olympics, but cautioned the figures are not final “and are likely to change.”

There is a lower risk profile for the Pan Am Games and not nearly as many so-called high-profile targets as at the Olympics, they said to explain the security budget.

However, the Progressive Conservatives said the security costs seem way too low.

“Clearly these games, whenever they happen around the world they cost a fair bit more than $206 million for security,” said PC Pan Am critic Rod Jackson. “If they keep going like this the total cost will approach $3 billion.

The province also announced the transportation budget for the games would be up to $90 million to shuttle athletes and officials to the various venues, which stretch from Niagara to as far north as the Orillia area and as far east as Oshawa.

There may be dedicated “priority lanes” on Toronto area highways to make sure the athletes can get to and from events, but officials said it’s possible they would be implemented only when traffic is congested, not for the entire duration of the games.

The government will try not to inconvenience regular commuters when it takes steps to transport the athletes to events, said Transportation Minister Glen Murray.

“We’ll be looking at HOV and flow lanes, but we’re managing a delicate balance here,” he said. “We do not want to crowd out our own citizens during an international event.”

About 10,000 athletes from 41 countries are expected to participate in the 2015 Pan Am Games at 34 different competition venues in 14 different municipalities. The games take place July 10 to 26, followed by the Parapan Am Games Aug. 7-14.