Despite setbacks Vancouver’s 2030 Olympic bid hangs on – meeting with IOC decision makers this week

All parties seem to be doing everything they can to keep the dream of returning the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to Vancouver alive. British Columbia’s provincial government remains unconvinced, however, creating an Olympic-sized headache for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony (IOC Photo)

Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony (IOC Photo) has learned that the Indigenous-led BC 2030 bid team joined rivals Sapporo and Salt Lake City in delivering a remote video presentation to the IOC’s Future Host Commission at their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland this week. The mostly technical reports ran less than one hour and included time for questions and answers with the eight-member commission led by Romanian Octavian Morariu.

In their presentation the BC team led by the Líl̓wat (Lilwat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said they remained committed to the project, vowing that a bid could be delivered that would accommodate all parties as soon as the province comes to the table for discussions. They also conveyed their disappointment that last month BC Minister Lisa Beare snubbed the bid, denying funding for the project without first meeting with the leadership. Without the province’s support the project cannot move forward.

On Monday the COC and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) issued a joint open letter to all elected officials across the province urging them to “sit down with all parties and fully explore the potential of this project – together.” Focusing on four key points, COC and CPC presidents Tricia Smith and Marc-André Fabien said the Games would meet commitments for reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Canada; reuse existing venues and lengthen legacies; be climate positive for the first time and would have its entire operating budget of CAD $2.5 billion (USD $1.87 billion) funded privately.

Read open letter from COC and CPC to Province of British Columbia

Foremost, the letter expressed dismay at the “surprise” announcement by Beare denying discussions on the already submitted feasibility study and draft proposal.

The unannounced but significant milestone in the bid process this week went largely unnoticed. In the past such technical presentations were widely anticipated and publicized, especially across regions involved in the bidding. Bidders would create elaborate video content and employ specialized consultants to convey specific messages about their projects.

According to Utah based Deseret News Presentations this week were limited to speeches and slides, and were developed to focus on the technicalities of the projects – a method promoted by the IOC to keep costs low. But the IOC has also chosen to cloak the entire process, leaving it instead up to individual interested hosts to reveal information about their own bids as they please.

The IOC hopes this reformed process launched in 2019 will eliminate the former battle royale style contests that pressured combatants to spend upwards of $100 million to stay competitive, only to suffer embarrassment if they were unelected or changed plans and dropped out of the race. This process also allows the IOC Executive Board to make better strategic decisions and negotiate with potential hosts before they can be added to the election ballot.

Consistent with the new format, the IOC refused to name the bids involved in this week’s presentations. Instead in a statement the IOC said “leaders of key projects with an interest in hosting the Olympic Winter Games were this week given the opportunity to make a virtual presentation to the Future Host Commission, which noted that there are strong projects for 2030, 2034 and potentially beyond.”

There are no fixed timelines in the new process, although earlier this year IOC President Thomas Bach said he had hoped the IOC Executive Board would name one or more preferred candidates by early December. This new flexibility will be good news for both the IOC and Canada’s First Nations.

The 2030 host election had been targeted for the IOC Session that was planned for Mumbai, India in May 2023. India’s National Olympic Committee was put on notice for non-compliance in September and the IOC postponed the planned Session until October – along with the election. . The IOC seems to be leveraging that delay.

The IOC statement indicated that the Executive Board has asked the Future Host Commission “to align any recommendation for opening a Targeted Dialogue with the new election date,” apparently seeking a delay to buy more time for the process.

And time is what the IOC needs.

Salt Lake City bid president Fraser Bullock said he was optimistic after the presentation and that he told the IOC that Utah would be ready to host in 2030 if asked to do so. He also told Deseret that he is aligned with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s (USOPC) preference in hosting in 2034 to widen the gap following the planned Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games – resulting in better sponsorship and fund raising opportunities. That would be a benefit for the IOC as well.

Sapporo’s bid continues to be tarnished by the growing bribery scandals involving the Tokyo 2020 Games that have already resulted in arrests. On Monday prosecutors raided the headquarters of the Dentsu ad agency under suspicions that contract bids for test events were rigged. Earlier this year IOC president Bach stayed away from a Tokyo 2020 anniversary event amid backlash against the Olympics.

Naming either of the two cities, both seeking a second Games, to a short list in two weeks time would not be strategic for the IOC. A fully-supported BC bid would be in a great position at this moment.

But British Columbia is currently embroiled in a health-care crisis that is amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and provincial finances are strapped. Although 54 percent of those surveyed were firmly behind the bid during the last summer, a majority now agree with the province’s decision to pass on the possibility of a second Winter Games.

A poll released this week by Research Co. revealed that 57 percent across the province agree with Beare’s decision to essentially end the bid while only 29 percent oppose it.

The COC and CPC hope to overcome these hurdles by bringing the parties back to the table with their open letter, positioning the Games as a way to recover from the pandemic and emerge from the financial woes.

“We are only interested in moving ahead with this project if it makes sense to do so, with the benefits outweighing the costs.” it reads.

But it remains unlikely that the additional time will change the province’s stance.

According to CBC Sports statement by Beare this week read “We know that this decision is disappointing for everyone that put so much hard work into the bid, but supporting the proposal any further would require dedicated and substantial provincial resources across government, while there are many competing priorities and challenges to be addressed.”

“The Cabinet decision is binding.”

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