Vancouver, IOC talking TV revenues

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver hope to have a deal with the International Olympic Committee on sharing broadcast revenues by the end of February.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee also said in a quarterly financial update that venue construction is on schedule and budget. The venue budget was increased to CAN$580 million ($504 million) in February because of higher costs resulting from Western Canada's construction boom.

VANOC is projecting the Games will have an operating budget of CAN$1.7 billion, although it is still working on a final business plan. A draft version is being reviewed by the IOC, and the Canadian and British Columbia governments.

Among the unanswered questions facing Vancouver is how much revenue from lucrative world broadcast contracts will be shared by the IOC, and talks to resolve the issue are being watched by organizers of London's 2012 Summer Olympics.

"Our goal is to have this all sort of completed, give or take a few weeks, sometime in late February," said VANOC chief executive John Furlong said Tuesday, adding that a meeting with the IOC is planned for mid-January.

Published reports say the IOC wants to give VANOC and London's organizers fixed amounts based on what it gave Turin for the 2006 Winter Games and will give Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games, adjusted for inflation.

The operating budget in Vancouver's bid for the Games in 2002 was estimated at CAN$1.3 billion, but organizers have struggled with higher costs and a stronger Canadian dollar. The estimate was increased to C$1.7 billion early this year.

The operating budget will be paid for by private sources including broadcast revenues, but the province of British Columbia is responsible for any budget overruns. VANOC said its business plan will have a "significant" contingency fund.

The venue construction budget, paid by taxpayers, remains at C$580 million ($504 million), including a CAN$66.8 million contingency fund. VANOC has spent CAN$182.4 million so far, according to its financial report for the quarter ended October 31.

British Columbia's Auditor General has said the actual cost to taxpayers will be at least CAN$2.5 billion because VANOC's budget does not include other items such as CAN$600 million in highway upgrades being done by the government in connection with the Games.

VANOC increased its estimates for venue construction costs by CAN$110 million last spring due to the strengthening of the Canadian dollar and the difficulty of building in the midst of a construction boom.

Canada was stung by huge cost overruns for construction of facilities for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, and taxpayers did not finish paying off the debt until last month.

VANOC said on Tuesday it has signed CAN$115 million in sponsorship agreements so far in 2006, above the CAN$100 million it had anticipated.

($1=$1.15 Canadian)
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