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A stretch of the Sea to Sky highway in Lion's Bay, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/Jonathan Hayward/CP)
A stretch of the Sea to Sky highway in Lion's Bay, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/Jonathan Hayward/CP)

The bread that comes from circuses Add to ...

Do it right, and hosting a mega-event such as the Olympics can accelerate infrastructure investment and economic development by decades, according to a report by global accountant and consultant PwC.

Last year's winter games in Vancouver, for example, triggered more than $1.2-billion of direct construction spending and created tens of thousands of jobs.

It also spawned a range of other legacy projects that will deliver benefits for years, according to the report, Game on: mega-event infrastructure opportunities. Those projects included the Vancouver Convention Centre, a rapid transit line connecting the city to its airport and the Sea-to-Sky highway expansion from Vancouver to Whistler.

PwC argues the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto will likewise be a catalyst for much-needed infrastructure.

"When a city plans ahead for the infrastructure required for sporting events like the Olympics and the Pan Am Games, the results are transformative," said Ron Bidulka, a PwC managing director.

The report identifies several keys to ensuring a lasting legacy from the orgy of infrastructure spending. These include making sure projects are part of a region's existing long-term plan, using public-private partnerships to share risk, making sure facilities have a post-games vocation and using games to spur urban regeneration.

PwC, however, seems to gloss over the litany of economic disasters that often follow mega-events, including cost overruns and orphaned venues.

The report, for example, mentions several recent Olympics, but not the 2004 Athens summer games, often cited as one of the triggers for Greece's current debt woes.

Likewise, the section on Vancouver neglects to mention the problems of the Olympic Village, which may have cost the city more than $200-million.

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