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Vancouver and the B.C. government have so far not provided any details of the contracts they signed to hold seven games during the World Cup in 2026, including how much the event will cost the two levels of government after additional games were added.

Toronto reported recently that its cost estimates had escalated to $380-million, from $300-million, because of inflation and the addition of a sixth game to its original schedule. A redacted copy of Toronto’s World Cup contract was released last weekthrough access to information legislation, outlining what the city promised FIFA, the world governing body for soccer.

But the picture is murkier in Vancouver, which is holding World Cup games along with Toronto and more than a dozen cities in the United States and Mexico.

The city has rejected efforts to obtain its FIFA contract through freedom of information requests, providing a lot of blanked-out pages in response to requests. The province hasn’t provided updated figures since early 2023 when it pegged the cost at $240-million to $260-million for the city and allowed it to start charging a hotel-room tax to cover those costs. The city has never provided an estimate.

In addition, the province hasn’t put any price tag on planned renovations to BC Place that it has said it will cover, and the federal government hasn’t said what it would contribute for security and other costs.

Gee: Toronto is stuck with its FIFA deal

The opposition B.C. United Party says the provincial government should have been more open about the finances from the start.

“There is a shocking lack of transparency. I call for them to be transparent,” said party Leader Kevin Falcon. He also predicted that the costs would be “well over double” the last estimate. “And it could be even worse.”

Vancouver was initially expected to hold five games, but that increased to seven when FIFA expanded the tournament to include 104 matches, up from 80.

B.C. Tourism Minister Lana Popham assured reporters repeatedly last week that the numbers are coming and acknowledged that there is likely to be a higher bill for the games than originally projected.

“We have a significant increase in opportunities, so with that comes an increase in costs,” said Ms. Popham. “In the next few weeks, we’ll have solid numbers.”

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, who has echoed Ms. Popham’s enthusiasm for the World Cup, said in a statement that the city will work with FIFA to make more information available, but he did not elaborate. The statement defended the secrecy.

“Since the inception of the bid process, the city has always and continues to respect the confidentiality of all hosting agreements as is the industry standard for major sporting events,” he said in a statement.

“Hosting agreements contain operational and commercially sensitive information and data, which are kept confidential for legal, safety and security reasons.”

The redacted version of Toronto’s contract with FIFA outlined some of what the city had promised the sports organization. The city has reportedly agreed to grant FIFA tax exemptions, protect its brand, allow it to sell advertising space in fan areas and co-ordinate any World Cup-related news briefings or information with the organization. Toronto also promised to cover and decorate construction sites likely to be seen by fans and soccer officials, as well as to cover transit costs for ticket holders and accredited media.

Other issues have yet to be decided in Toronto, such as which force will be responsible for policing World Cup events.

Disclosure has varied elsewhere. For example, Seattle has not provided regular updates on what the expenses will be since early estimates from 2018 that playing host to five matches could cost as much as US$10-million, although it has released the contract that outlines what FIFA will pay in rent for the stadium.

Carson Binda, the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which has been critical of the World Cup bids by Toronto and Vancouver and the secrecy around the costs, said the language in the publicly available contracts seems to indicate that governments are on the hook for whatever FIFA might demand.

“I’d describe the contract by and large as a blank cheque. They can change the agreement at their will,” he said.

The costs for Vancouver are supposed to be covered by the new 2.5-per-cent hotel tax that was put into effect in February, 2023. At the time, the province estimated that it could raise as much as $230-million over seven years.

But the province has said it can’t provide any numbers at the moment on the amount the tax raised in 2023, and whether those tax revenues will be enough to cover any increased costs. The province recently issued a request for bids to manage substantial upgrades to BC Place, but that contract has yet to be awarded.

Neither the province, the city, nor Destination Vancouver, the city’s tourism agency, would provide any information that might indicate how much revenue has already come in. However, a government database that tracks monthly revenues from hotel rooms shows that those revenues for February to November of last year totalled $1.24-billion.

If revenues remained the same for 2024 as they were for the full year preceding November, 2023, the yearly total would be $1.39-billion. In theory, the new tax would bring in almost $38-million from that amount. If that level of revenue continues, that would bring in as much as $260-million over the seven years. However, it’s unclear now whether costs might exceed that figure.

BC United Party MLA Peter Milobar, who has been tracking the issue for the three years since it was announced that Vancouver was going to get some of the matches, said the government appears to be disorganized and unprepared for the fast-approaching games.

“We’re now 24 months away and no meaningful work has started,” he said.

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