20100212 vancouver olympics ice skating 96606701 18
U.S. skaters Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig perform during a Pairs training session at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver before the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics. - 


Bill Radke: The Winter Olympics open tonight in Vancouver, and the mayor of that Canadian city is promising the games will be a boon to business. But judging from the past, how likely is that really? Here's our senior business correspondent, Bob Moon:

Bob Moon: A business professor who studied the 2002 Salt Lake games has a much different take on how beneficial the big event will be.

Victor Matheson: I don't doubt that it might make the people of Vancouver happy, but it's certainly not going to make them rich.

Victor Matheson teaches business at Massachusetts' College of the Holy Cross and says if anything, the Salt Lake Games were a net loss. But if that's true, the head of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Lane Beattie, wonders why most people there ended up so happy.

Lane Beattie: Something like 89 percent of all Utahns would do it again. So that is overwhelming.

Beattie served as a state liaison during the Utah games, and insists they made money:

Beattie: We were successful in literally every way.

Professor Matheson contends his study found otherwise -- hotels and restaurants scored gold, but other businesses and tax revenues suffered:

Matheson: Department stores had a notably poorer time during the Olympics, and of all things ski resorts actually had a terrible month.

You heard that right:

Matheson: Spectators crowded out the skiers.

Perhaps understandably, the view from the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is much brighter:

Beattie: Our ski industry in Utah has grown larger every single year since the Olympics.

A-ha! So maybe there is a downside after all: longer lift lines.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.