Niagara made a successful bid to be the host community for the 2021 Canada Summer Games, fending off strong competition from Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Sudbury. We expect to welcome 30,000 visitors, making this the best-attended Games in recent history, with close to 18,000 having attended the 2013 Games in Sherbrooke, 22,600 in 2009 at Prince Edward Island, and 18,300 in 2005 at Regina. Just over 20,000 are expected at this summer’s Games in Winnipeg. The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce lent its support to the Canada Games bid.
Those who note that the Olympics is not a moneymaker for the host community might feel some trepidation at the prospect. The 2016 Rio Olympics reportedly cost around $4.6 billion, plus $1.6 billion in overages – the average Olympic Games since 1960 went 156 per cent over budget, although the final price might be as much as $20 billion (financial data on the Olympics is poor, with cost overrun data only available for 19 of the last 30 games). Given those huge cost overruns, Olympic hosts usually lose a lot of money and certainly do not get the return on investment they would have gained if they’d invested it in more traditional infrastructure. If they had built roads and bridges, they would still have them today; instead, they have crumbling, abandoned ruins – which admittedly make good photography if you’re into the urban-decay aesthetic.
Obviously, those were major concerns for us going in. But the Canada Games do not lose the host community money. In fact, they are a major driver for economic growth. Looking at the last three summer games, GNCC staff found that the average creates $116 million in total economic activity, with $98m of that being local. They create an average of 800 new local jobs, paying $28 million in local wages and $1.9 million in local municipal taxes. And with substantially above-average visitors forecast, there’s every reason to believe the Niagara 2021 Games would produce substantially above-average revenue, economic activity, and job creation.
Niagara Region estimates that the Niagara Games will have an economic impact of as much as $240 million in Niagara, with support for 1,500 jobs and $76 million paid out in wages. Much of this money will go into the tourism sector, and as with tourism in general, revenue increases the farther people come. At the last summer games in 2013, the average overnight visitor from out-of-province spent just over $550, with most of that going to accommodation and restaurants, but with substantial other spending going to vehicle expenses, shopping, groceries, and other recreation and entertainment.
In addition to spectator spending, there are also the operational expenses for the Games themselves. In 2013, besides salaries, most went into supplies, food and beverages, accommodations, advertising and professional services – much of which will be procured locally, offering a boost to businesses in those fields. And finally, there will be jobs created. The 2013 Games – at a little over half the projected attendance of the 2021 Niagara Games – created 1,111 jobs in the province, of which 801 were in Sherbrooke. Of the local jobs, 327 were created directly, 242 through indirect impact, and 232 through induced impact (it should be noted that “direct impact” is generally through extra shifts or overtime for existing workers, rather than new employment – nevertheless, these are new wages being paid, which will drive consumer spending and thus support other jobs indirectly).
Studies of the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics, conversely, found no gain in net economic activity in the industries we’d expect to be the chief beneficiaries of the games. Also, unlike the Olympics, the Canada Games largely relies on existing facilities, rather than on building entirely new ones on an enormous scale that there will be no further demand for after the Games are over. There will be a legacy of new facilities, such as a proposed multi-purpose athletic, health and well-being facility on the Brock campus, but all will become useful parts of Niagara’s infrastructure for years after 2021. The Brock facility will be available for use by other community and rehabilitation programs.
How can business take advantage of the Games and maximize the economic impact of this prestigious event? We know that thousands of people will visit Niagara for the Games, and we need to make the most of their visits by showing them what Niagara has to offer, and hopefully enticing them to stay an extra night to see it. As the build-up to the Games intensifies, we want to see promotion for Niagara’s attractions. Visitors should know about our wineries, casinos, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, tours, parks, and everything else that we know Niagara has but which out-of-towners may not.
For businesses, look to promote your business by partnering with the places you know athletic tourists will go to. Get your promotional materials out at hotels, restaurants, and athletic venues. A lot of visitors will be searching the internet for things to do in Niagara – make sure you’re on the first page of results by building your web presence and a strong SEO plan. The GNCC is committed to helping your business succeed. Contact us for help and ideas.
With every Canada Games being an economic shot-in-the-arm for the host economy, the GNCC endorsed it wholeheartedly – and we were enormously pleased to see Niagara win. Bringing the Games here took a remarkable effort from a great number of different people and organizations across the region, and as with GO train or the GE plant announcements, it is remarkable what we can achieve when we work together.