SPECIAL SERIES: The Vancouver Summer Olympic Games (Part III)

Dec 19 2017, 2:08 pm

In this final installment of our 3-part Vancity Buzz Special Exclusive Series, we conclude our insight on the feasibility of a Summer Olympic Games held here in Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria while also looking at British Columbia’s feasibility and chance of hosting other major international events. We will also explore the growth in size of the Games, the desire to host the “Best Games Ever,” and why the Olympic Movement depends on commercialism for its very survival.

If you are just reading this special series now, be sure to start with Part One and Part Two before venturing any further into this third and final part. Throughout Part One, we highlighted the differences in scale between the Winter and Summer Olympics, the history and legacy of major international sporting events in Canada, the accommodations and media infrastructure required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the transportation infrastructure improvements that would be needed to handle the additional traffic flow of 1.5 to 2 million additional journeys per day, as well as the labour, volunteers, and security that is required to host a Summer Olympics in Vancouver. In Part Two, we ventured further by identifying what sports venues and competition sites were needed for the Summer Games in Vancouver, proposed the usage of existing venues and the construction of temporary and new permanent facilities. Highlighting their successes and failures, identifying lessons to take upon, we also explored the venue building experiences and the post-Games legacies of Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, and London 2012.



Technical Implications of a Vancouver Summer Olympic Games
Over the first and second parts in this special series, I identified not only the scope of the Summer Olympics but also within the Metro Vancouver/Greater Victoria/BC/Canada context of bringing the event here right to our doors and streets. I can conclude that technically and logistically, it would be doable today, due to not only the infrastructural investments we made for the 2010 Winter Olympics (the expanded Vancouver Convention Centre for instance) but also largely, and exceedingly and dependably, the much larger and additional publicly funded taxpayer investments that would need to be made to bring the region up to Summer Games standards and capabilities. Whether such a large investment is worth it is for you, the reader, to decide.

However, with that said, I can certainly say that Vancouver would be better off without the Summer Games, at least within the near future (not that Vancouver would have a decent chance if it submitted a bid over the next 20 years, having hosted the Winter Games recently). A sudden injection of such immense economic activity to prepare for the Games, proportional to the economic power and population of the Vancouver region and British Columbia, would most certainly be unfeasible. It would also turn the region into a ghost city after the gold rush has left. Alternatively, diluting the investments on Olympic preparation over a period of time could make the effort more feasible; like Toronto and Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver could host the Pan American Games to create some of the facilities and infrastructure that would also later be needed to host the Olympic Summer Games. The IOC also takes hosting experience of large events like the Pan American Games to account in its decision making (the Pan American Games are the Summer Olympics of North and South America).

Nevertheless, it would likely take at least another 30 to 40-years for Vancouver to naturally and organically attain the transportation and accommodations infrastructure required to host today’s Summer Games, in addition to a sufficiently larger population to not only build the Games but also sustain the Games and its post-Games legacies. After all, who will buy the 4-5 million tickets to attend the events? Who will fill all the volunteer and paid work positions? As well, a lot of the transportation and accommodations infrastructure would be better off built over a period of time, rather than cramming construction – both market/privately (hotels) and publicly driven projects (transportation, venues) – within a 7 year Games organizing period.

A minimum of 50,000 Games-time volunteers would also be needed, in addition to tens and tens of thousands of contractors and construction workers: this is labour British Columbia, or even Western Canada for that matter, does not currently have. Such efforts would probably require the import of labour from Central/Eastern Canada and the United States, and that also comes at a higher cost. As well, the financial costs of building everything within a 7-year period is grossly fiscally unfeasible, and the cost of maintaining many of these permanent facilities once the Games have ended will be high (unless we want them to turn into the new ancient ruins of Athens or Beijing-style starchitectual white elephants).

Of course, as outlined in Part 2, $110-million was set aside by VANOC to operate and maintain the facilities of the Richmond Olympic Oval, Whistler Olympic Park, and Whistler Sliding Centre for the next 30 years. Similar post-Games venue legacy funds would certainly be needed for some of the new permanent Summer Games venues constructed. Although, in another scenario, for venues that are located at universities (or are simply replacements of older aging facilities), like the UBC Thunderbird Sports Centre (2010 ice hockey), costs can be balanced due to the exceedingly high student usage of a venue for sports and cultural activities.

I will also expand on what we would do with a Summer Games Olympic Village(s), and potentially a Media Village (should there be an insufficient number of hotel rooms for media personnel, and should cruise ships not be feasible or sufficient for whatever reason). The condominium units of a Summer Games Olympic Village(s) that housed 18,000 people (athletes and team officials) during a Vancouver Summer Games would also unleash a massive inventory into a relatively small B.C. market and economy (proportion to population); with the release of such large inventory, it could create shockwaves in the real estate market. The same can equally be said for a 21,000 person Media Village to house the world’s media. An 18,000-bed Olympic Village would be built from 2,500 to 3,000 condominium units, while a 21,000-bed Media Village would be built from 3,000-3,500 condominium units. In total, that would unleash, all at once, between 5,500-6,500 condominium units. In comparison, in April 2012 there were 5,503 condominium units under construction in Vancouver, and during the same month there were 3,017 units listed for sale in the city (504 of those units were recently built).

Although, that detrimental effect could be reduced or eliminated by slowly unloading a limited number of Olympic Village and Media Village condominium units into the market. Alternatively, depending on how you view it, such a huge new supply could also be a good thing: whether those condominium units be turned into market or rental housing, supply and demand theory would tell us that it would drive prices down, making it more affordable for young and creative talents to live and stay in the city. A portion of those units could also turn into social housing and affordable rental housing.

Large construction crane city at Southeast False Creek in March 2008 for the Vancouver Olympic Village (Source: PiscesDreamer)

False Creek Olympic Village Crane City


This in-depth series only looks at the specifications and standards of the Summer Olympic Games as we know them today. Yet, it will also require 30-40 years for Metro Vancouver (and Greater Victoria, and the powerhouse of the Provincial Government of British Columbia) to naturally and organically gain the infrastructure, economic power, and population required to host the Games as we know them today. The Summer Games (and Winter too) have grown in scale and scope at each edition. At the Munich Summer Games of 1972, there were 7,134 athletes and 195 competitions, whereas there were 10,500 athletes and 302 events at London 2012.

There is no telling of how much bigger the Games will become in the years and decades to come. It is certainly becoming more difficult and unsustainable for cities to host the event. And even then, to this point, I have only discussed logistical and technical capability: there are hundreds of rising cities worldwide, many in developing nations, that may also aspire to host the Summer Games in the future. Even then, there is also competition from [larger] cities that are already more capable and carry more lustre than Vancouver. Simply put, the depth in competition to host the Summer Olympic Games is immensely large. With more and more cities vying to bring Olympic glory and prestige home, this will only make the competition of bringing the Games home to Vancouver so much more difficult. The International Olympic Committee will also certainly take note that Vancouver has already had its moment of Olympic glory, albeit with the smaller Winter Olympics.


Growth of the Olympic Games
The growth of the Games can be attributed not only to the many sports and competitions that have been added to the Games program (for example, golf, rugby, BMX, mountain biking, and triathlon were all sports added to the Summer Games program over the last 20 years; conversely, curling, snowboarding, and skeleton were added to the Winter Games program in the 1990s), as well as an increase in number of participants in each event, but also largely due to the increase in women participating at the Games which is also spurred by the gradual introduction of female competitions in the same sports that men compete in.

There were 1,059 women and 6,075 men competing in 195 events at the Munich 1972 Games, while there were 4,367 women and 6,305 men competing in 302 events at the Beijing 2008 Games. The recent London 2012 Games were seen as an “historic step towards gender equality,” with taekwondo and boxing added as women’s competitions this was the first Olympic Games where women competed in all sports and events. There were also some watershed moments at London when countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei sent women athletes to compete at the Games for the very first time. At the upcoming Sochi 2014 Winter Games, female ski jumping will be added to the program for the very first time as well.

In addition, there is also the natural desire within certain IOC members to expand the Games. After all, this international non-governmental and non-profit organization is all about setting new standards, breaking new records and speeds. The motto of the Olympic Movement is “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Expansion and innovation is how any company, organization, city, country, economy, and entity remain strong and relevant; history books are filled with accounts of demise caused by stagnant growth and/or a refusal to change.


Growth of Commercialism for Survival – Olympic Sponsorship and Broadcast Television Rights
The IOC knows about survival very well, the growth in the size and scope of the Games came with high costs – the need to change and grow was all apparent to the IOC. In the late-1970s and early-1980s the Games were facing extinction: the costs of hosting the Games (proportional to their value) were simply too high to bear, to the point that there were single bids for the 1980 Winter Olympics and the 1984 Summer Olympics – both bid cities for each respective Games were from the United States. Winning by default, as there were no other competitors, Lake Placid would host the 1980 Games while Los Angeles would host the 1984 Games. The IOC recognized its funding model had to be changed, it completely revamped and streamlined its corporate sponsorship program. In fact, a Canadian had much to do with saving the Olympic Games from financial turmoil. Dick Pound, a Canadian IOC member (and former Vice-President of the IOC; former President of the World Anti-Doping Agency located in Montreal), led the way towards creating “The Olympic Partner” or “TOP” as well as a model for attaining higher television rights revenues.

TOP did not create more sponsors, rather it significantly reduced the number of sponsors and instead made sponsors pay exponentially more for highly exclusive membership into TOP. More and more, this meant you had to be a wealthy multinational in order to be associated with the Olympic Movement. Membership in TOP would also give sponsors exclusive international marketing rights to “exploit the membership of the club and the symbols and insignia of the IOC, the Organizing Committees and the National Olympic Committees on an exclusive basis within their business sector. This exclusivity is further favoured by the global scale of the programme and the small number of global co-sponsors. In addition, the rights also involve an opportunity to develop marketing programmes in conjunction with the IOC.”

In effect, sponsors were buying exclusive marketing rights to associate their brand with the Olympic Games. These marketing rights lasted over a four year period between the Winter and Summer Games, and it also led to programming the Summer and Winter Games during different years. 1992 was the last year in which both the Summer and Winter Games were held during the same year, in this case at Barcelona, Spain and Albertville, France. The Lillehammer Games held in 1994 initiated a new four-year cycle for the Winter Olympics, the diffusion of the Games over separate years not only increased the value of being in TOP, but also earned the Winter Games a much greater profile – no longer would it have to be in the shadow of the Summer Games. For the four-year period between from 2005 to 2008, which included exclusive marketing rights to Torino 2006, Beijing 2008, and 202 National Olympic Committees, TOP had a membership of 11 sponsors that paid a total of USD$866-million to the IOC.

So where does the money from TOP go? 50% of TOP revenues are transferred to the Local Organizing Committee (e.g. BOCOG, VANOC, LOCOG) to help cover the operational costs of running their respective Games; 40% of TOP revenues are transferred to the 205 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and their teams, such as the Canadian Olympic Committee, which in turn uses the revenues to fund the training of their nation’s amateur athletes (without TOP, many developing countries would not be able to train and send their athletes to the Olympics); and the remaining 10% goes towards the IOC’s own administrative costs. For the same reasons, the nationalistic element of the Olympic Games competitions ensures the continued funding of the world’s athletes; governments fund their athletes so that they compete under the flag of the nation, without such national representation it is plausible that many governments would have second thoughts about the enormous funding and resources they attain for their nation’s amateur sports programs.

Television rights proved to be even more lucrative for the IOC. In addition to the TOP, the IOC also saw exponential growth with its television rights revenues, due to the growth of television access, viewership, and the commercialization of Games television coverage (which also helped TOP) for revenue by rights-holding networks. Worldwide television rights revenues for the IOC for the 1972 Sapporo and Munich Games were just USD$26.3-million. For the Nagano 1998 and Sydney 2000 Games, tv rights revenues reached USD$1.845-billion, then USD$2.546-billion for the Torino 2006 and Beijing 2008, and then jumping to USD$3.9-billion for Vancouver 2010 and London 2012. These high television revenues can also be attributed to  exceedingly high revenues from the American Olympic Broadcaster: NBC. The American network paid USD$2.2-billion alone for the Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 Games, and it recently sealed a USD$4.38-billion deal with the IOC for the American television broadcasting rights to the Sochi 2014, Rio de Janeiro 2016, Pyeongchang 2018 and yet-to-be-awarded 2020 Games. No wonder the network refuses to broadcast events live, sacrificing viewer experience drastically in favour of tape-delayed primetime highlights broadcasts, which traditionally bring higher viewership for greater advertising revenue. Altogether, the Local Organizing Committees receive 49% of the revenue the IOC raises from television rights.

Furthermore, all of this explains why the IOC and its subsidiary Local Organizing Committees are such fervent protectors of the Olympic brand and trademarks, hiring teams of lawyers to become what could be nicknamed as the “Logo Police.” With so much money at stake (which goes directly towards paying the operational costs of running the Games, and training costs of athletes around the world), and the need to maintain good relations with its sponsors (for continued sponsorship at future Olympics), the need to maintain the lucrative exclusivity of the Olympic brand is seen as absolutely vital: the IOC and Local Organizing Committees have very little tolerance with any misuse of its trademarks and false association with the Games, including fraudulent merchandise and non-rights holding television coverage. Local Organizing Committees have also adopted a similar approach towards raising domestic sponsorship, and have applied the same exclusivity and brand protectionism methods as the IOC. For instance, VANOC raised an astounding $760-million in Canadian domestic sponsorship (from Bell, RBC, Rona, Hudson’s Bay Company, Air Canada, etc.) that went towards funding the $1.76-billion in 2010 operational costs. Conversely, LOCOG raised just $1.1-billion in British domestic sponsorship from 42 British companies (which includes Adidas, BMW, British Airways, Lloyds, and BP) for the much larger Summer Games ($3.4-billion for 2012 operational costs).

There are, of course, many critics who voice against the commercialism of the Games, its association to corporations with questionable values and practices (yes, McDonalds is indeed the Official Restaurant of the Olympic Games), and its deep exclusivity and far-reaching/ruthless legal practices (lawsuits) to protect its brand. Among many examples, VANOC went as far as spending $40-million to buy every single ad space (everything from transit ad space to large billboards) in the Lower Mainland for the duration of the Games to re-sell to Olympic sponsors and prevent ambush marketing by non-sponsors.

The fact is, the revenue from exclusive commercialism runs the multi-billion costs of each Olympics, and in turn reduces the costs for the host nation’s taxpayers by billions. Critics should not be too quick to dismiss this very fact, and without commercialism the Games would be in financial despair, just as it was prior to the mid-1980s. TOP and Olympic broadcast rights are a highly successful model that have secured the financial welfare of the Olympic Movement, and it covers much of the multi-billion dollar operational costs of running the Games for 17-days. Through both financial and in-kind sponsorship, sponsors make the Games possible.

In-kind sponsorship (often coupled with monetary commitments for higher sponsorship tiers) refers to material sponsorship, such as goods and services required by the organizers. In exchange, they are given exclusivity to sell their products and merchandise at the Games. One prominent example, as a TOP sponsor, “VISA, the only card accepted at the Olympic Games” (which has been advertised through countless television commercials narrated by Morgan Freeman).

For instance, as with other Games and at London, VISA was the only credit card that could be used to pay for 2010 Olympic event tickets and to purchase Olympic merchandise at the Downtown Vancouver Olympic Superstore at the Hudson’s Bay Company. And if you are one of those that prefer Pepsi over Coca-Cola, you’re also quite out of luck at the Olympic Games.

Vancouver 2010’s Technology Operations Centre, where results data are dispersed: provided by Atos – an information technology TOP sponsor. (Source: InsideTheGames)

VANOC Technology


Omega is the official sponsor of timing, scoring, and venue competition results. It bills itself as the “Official Timekeeper of the Olympics.” (Source: Hamptoms)

Clock Olympics


A Panasonic jumbotron screen at the London 2012 Field Hockey venue. Panasonic provides the television, camera, and audio equipment required for venues, sites and operations. (Source: House of Japan)

Panasonic Olympics


However, the IOC does enact methods to keep the Games from at least appearing too commercial: it forbids any advertising at venues, on the fields of play (side boards), athlete uniforms, etc. For instance, at NHL and NBA matches, the side boards of the arena/court are lined with advertisements (as seen on television): this is banned from the Olympics. To maintain neutrality on the field of play, the graphic brands of the Games (such as VANOC’s green/blue animated swooshes) cover all the venues and sites instead. As well, if an existing venue used for the Games is named after a sponsor, the Local Organizing Committee temporarily buys-out the names rights holder and renames the venue with a neutral name. For example, during Vancouver 2010, GM Place (now Rogers Arena) was renamed to “Canada Hockey Place” and at London 2012, the O2 Arena (where gymnastics was held) was renamed to North Greenwich Arena.

COMPARISON: Top image – advertisements on the ice hockey rink boards of the NHL venues (Source: NHL Connection); Bottom image – neutral Olympic branding on the ice hockey rink boards of the 2010 Olympics at Canada Hockey Place (Source: About)

Canucks vs Flames


Sidney's Golden Goal

Commercialism has made the Olympic Games (in addition to the political nature of the event), and its International Olympic Committee (the most powerful sports organization in the world), one of the greatest brands in the world to be associated with. Over $5-billion is generated each four-year period from marketing and broadcasting rights, ticketing, and the licensing of Olympic merchandise. The IOC’s current TOP are Coca-Cola, Acer, Atos, Dow, General Electric, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Proctor & Gamble, Samsung, and Visa. In the advent of commercialism, host cities (and their regions and nations) are no different than these corporations with wanting a large platform to advertise their brand in the world.

The Olympic Partners of London 2012 (Source: IOC)

Worldwide Olympic Partners

Worldwide Olympic Sponsors



Growing Pains – The Host’s Race To Best Them All
Not only is there a natural desire within human civilization to grow and innovate, local Olympic organizing committees and local/national governments also have a desire to out-do their predecessors and utilize the Games as a means of stirring national pride. Like the World War that occurs every 2-years with earning the most gold medals (or, in countries like Canada and the USA, the most number of medals also counts), exceeding precedent is attempted by every Olympic host city, and it was most apparent with Beijing – from lavish architectural designs for venues to a jaw-dropping Opening Ceremony spectacle. Quite similarly, the Russian government is hoping to turn Sochi 2014 into a winter equivalent of the extravagant Beijing Games. From the Vancouver Sun:

“Many [Russians] still believe their country is a superpower, so they have superpower expectations about what Russia’s first Winter Games should be like. Russians fret about whether the “show” put on by Sochi will be sufficiently spectacular…The Russian ambition is to make the kind of big statement that the shock and awe of the Beijing Games did for China in 2008. To produce such an outcome, Russia is lavishing about as much money on the Sochi Olympics as Great Britain spent on the much more diverse and diffuse 2012 Summer Games and about three times more than Canada spent on the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

The Kremlin can afford to be spending $19 billion on the Sochi extravaganza because, like the Chinese leadership, it presides over a command economy. Supported by fantastic oil and gas revenues, the Russian government can also lean on the country’s hugely rich corporations to pay much of the freight because of the profound inter-relationships that exist between the oligarchs and the political centre.”


The new Sochi 2014 Olympic Park, home to many venues and sites including the Olympic Stadium, figure skating, short-track, speed skating, curling, ice hockey, the Olympic Village, Media Village, and IBC/MPC. Will these permanent venues and facilities become white elephants in this urban region of just 330,000 people? (Source: Formula1OnLive)

Sochi Olympic Park

The new 40,000-seat Sochi 2014 Olympic Stadium, home to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and one of the venues for the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Russia. (Source: TruWorld)

Sochi 2014 Olympic Stadium


Exploring further, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of an Olympics were not always such expensive and long shows. Up until the 1976 Games at Montreal, they were nothing more than the protocol of speeches, anthems, parade of nations, and lighting the Olympic flame. There were no big cultural acts and mass performances until Moscow 1980, when the Soviet Union added these elements to the Ceremonies as a means of showing off its power and prestige to the world. This was countered by the show put on at Los Angeles 1984, when the United States put on an even bigger show than the Soviets. And so, the pattern was made for bigger and bigger Opening and Closing Ceremonies, reaching to the level we saw with the productions put on by Beijing 2008 – their enormous scale, incredible detail and precision will not be matched nor topped anytime soon (although, you can certainly count on the Russians at Sochi 2014 to create the most extravagant Opening and Closing Ceremonies yet for a Winter Olympics).


Moscow 1980 Opening Ceremony, the first “extravagant” Olympic Ceremony. (Source: Bloomberg)

Moscow 1980 Opening Ceremony

Los Angeles tries to up Moscow by one notch at its 1984 Opening Ceremony, with rocketman (Source: GQ)

LA 1984 Opening


Beijing also followed the footsteps of Athens by having another global Olympic Torch Relay (which made sense for Athens, considering it was the “homecoming” Olympics). However, the 2008 relay route created by the Chinese – the longest torch relay route in Olympic history – was marred by activist protests and violence (against Chinese government policies, particularly Tibet, and human rights practices) wherever it traveled to until it reached Chinese territory. In response, to protect the image of the Olympic Torch Relay, in 2009 the International Olympic Committee has banned future local organizers from running international torch relays. Ever since Nazi Germany started the tradition of the Olympic Torch Relay at the Berlin 1936 Games, the routes of the relays have grown longer and more complex after each subsequent Games. For instance, with regards to complexity of the torch relay, they have gone far beyond simply passing the torch from one torchbearer to the other: for Sydney 2000, the flame was brought underwater at the Great Barrier Reef, and for Beijing 2008, it reached the peak of Mt. Everest.

Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch Relay goes underwater at the Great Barrier Reef (Source: Quicksilver Group)


Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay reaches the peak of the world’s tallest mountain – Mt. Everest (Source: The Sun UK)


Altogether, both directly and symbolically, this contributes to the growth of the Olympic Games, and even the International Olympic Committee has recognized that they are getting too big and complex. Jacques Rogge, who became the IOC President in 2000 and will retire in 2013, stated his desire to see the Games downsized early on in his tenure:

“If we want the success of the Games to last, we have to reduce the burden of hosting them, making the Games smaller and less sophisticated will help developing countries.” Rogge stressed that he did not want to reduce the number of sports contested, nor the number of competing athletes. But the composition of the programme – the actual sports in the Olympics – would be reviewed.

The IOC chief would also like to see the number of accreditations for non-athletes frozen. Some 195,000 accreditations were accorded for the 2000 Games, of which only 10,500 were competitors, or “18 people for every athlete”. He pointed out that the number of accredited journalists had increased from 11,000 at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics to 25,000 in Sydney.

He believes the cost of building facilities could also be cut. Too many immense stadia become white elephants, rarely being filled to their full capacity once the Olympic circus has rolled out of town. The cost of technology has also sky-rocketed. Where in Seoul in 1988, it amounted to eight per cent of the budget, it now stands at 28 per cent.

Although downsizing may have been his intentions, any decision must be agreed and voted upon by many of his international colleagues who form the membership of the IOC (the same membership that votes on the host cities). The growing size of the Games also makes them a more lucrative investment for sponsors and television broadcasters, superlatives always drive and create the interest that every party, actor, and partner desire. The bigger the event, the more lucrative of an investment it will be for sponsors and television broadcast rights holders. Regardless, Rogge has built a better Olympic Movement that is freer from scandal, significantly active on reducing cheating and doping, and one that puts much greater emphasis on youth inclusion – he was the brainchild of the IOC’s Youth Olympic Games. He has also gone far separate ways from his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was well-known for his appreciation of the grandeur, excess, and extravagant.

If Vancouver were to host the Olympic Summer Games (it certainly has the comfortable summer climate for it, coupled with a picturesque setting akin to Sydney), it would be the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Games. However, it does have competition for this title: Munich, host of the 1972 Summer Games, submitted an unsuccessful bid for the 2018 Winter Games and has made public its interest with a second attempt for 2022.



Joint Vancouver-Seattle Summer Olympic Games Bid?
There were suggestions by Tourism Vancouver of submitting a joint Summer Games bid with Seattle, but that would require the IOC to change its strict and traditional policies and the entire concept of the Olympic Games being hosted and organized by one host country, centred around one main host city. Such drastic change to the very concept of the Olympics is highly unlikely, not to mention the immense logistical issues and customs/border difficulties that would arise.

Furthermore, it should be noted that Toronto will most likely be the next Canadian city after Montreal in 1976 to play host to the Summer Olympics. Toronto previously submitted unsuccessful bids for the 1996 and 2008 Summer Games, and it is currently exploring the feasibility of submitting a bid for the 2024 Games. Like Rio de Janeiro, which hosted the 2007 Pan American Games and later won the 2016 Olympics, Toronto would use its infrastructure and experience from hosting the upcoming 2015 Pan American Games for making its pitch to the IOC.

FIFA World Cup
There has been some talk on hosting the FIFA World Cup with Seattle, but regions and cities do not host the World Cup – rather, a country hosts the competition and stadiums are dispersed across the nation (the Seattle and Vancouver region certainly cannot sustain twelve 40,000 to 80,000 seat soccer stadiums, nevermind filling those seats during matches). FIFA has also stated that it is unwilling to explore another two-nation joint World Cup host, it was not satisfied with the organization of Japan-Korea 2002, which was marred by rivalry and logistical issues between the two host nations. Japan-Korea also won the 2002 World Cup bid due to low competition, the only other competitor was Mexico. Again, border/customs issues would also be an issue.

However, there has recently been real discussion on Canada submitting its own bid to host the men’s FIFA World Cup. The Canadian Soccer Association has confirmed its interest, and is laying down the groundwork for a Canadian bid to host the 2026 World Cup. FIFA has taken great interest with Canada in recent years, and has acknowledged the immense development of the football/soccer sport in the nation. There is also a desire from FIFA to bring the ultimate Cup back to North America, the men’s World Cup was last held in North America in 1994 by the United States. In 2014, it will be held in Brazil; 2018 in Qatar; and 2022 in Russia.

In 2015, Canada will play host to the FIFA Women’s World Cup and stadiums in Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Moncton (N.B.) will host the tournaments. A decision has yet to be made on which city will host the opening and final match, but it is anticipated that Vancouver’s BC Place – the new crown jewel of stadiums in Canada – will be chosen. Toronto would naturally be a host city, but it has decided to opt out of this event due to its commitment to the 2015 Pan American Games. Like Canada’s hosting of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the 2015 female tournament will only boost Canada’s chances of hosting the much larger men’s edition:

“In 2015, the CSA will once again get the opportunity to showcase the passion for the game that exists in this country when it hosts the Women’s World Cup. The timing of which couldn’t be more perfect. If the U-20 success is duplicated there, Montagliani said it will make a strong case for hosting the Men’s game. 

‘If you look at where we want to get to, not only on the international stage, but where the game stands in our country, in our culture, that’s our number one priority. We will have shown that we are capable of not only attracting big attendances but running a safe and secure event at the highest levels of FIFA’s tournaments.'”

For the men’s World Cup, FIFA requires 12 standardized football stadiums with the following stipulations:

  • The venue hosting the Opening Game and Final Game must have a seating capacity of at least 80,000;
  • For the other group matches, last 16, quarter finals and the match for third placement, the requirement is a seating capacity of at least 40,000;
  • And for venues hosting the semi-finals, a seating capacity of at least 60,000.

Given these stadium standards, the roster of Canadian FIFA World Cup stadiums could theoretically look like the following:

1)  World Cup Stadium – Toronto, Ontario
  • Status: NEW
  • Built: new for World Cup
  • Capacity: 80,000 seats
  • Matches: opening/final; semi-final; quarter-finals; last 16
2) Olympic Stadium – Montreal, Quebec
  • Status: EXISTING
  • Built: 1976
  • Capacity: 67,000 seats
  • Matches: semi-final; quarter-finals; last 16
3) Commonwealth Stadium – Edmonton, Alberta
  • Status: EXISTING
  • Built: 1978
  • Capacity: 60,000 seats
  • Matches: semi-final; quarter-finals; last 16
4) BC Place Stadium – Vancouver, BC
  • Status: EXISTING
  • Built: 1983/2011
  • Capacity: 55,000
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
5) Rogers Centre – Toronto, Ontario
  • Status: EXISTING
  • Built: 1989
  • Capacity: 47,000
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
6) Investors Group Field – Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Built: 2013 completion
  • Capacity: 34,000 (increased to 40,000 with temporary seating)
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
7) Regina Stadium – Regina, Saskatchewan
  • Built: 2017 completion
  • Capacity: 33,000 (increased to 40,000 with temporary seating)
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
8 ) Lansdowne Park – Ottawa, Ontario
  • Built:2015 completion
  • Capacity: 25,000 (increased to 40,000 with temproary seating)
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
9) Pan American Stadium – Hamilton, Ontario
  • Built: 2015 completion
  • Capacity: 25,000 (increased to 40,000 with structural modifications and renovations)
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
10) BMO Field – Toronto, Ontario
  • Status: EXISTING
  • Built: 2007
  • Capacity: 21,000 (increased to 40,000 with structural modifications and renovations)
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
11) Saputo Stadium – Montreal, Quebec
  • Status: EXISTING
  • Built: 20008/2012
  • Capacity: 20,000 (increased to 40,000 with structural modifications and renovations)
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
12) New Halifax Stadium – Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Status: NEW
  • Built: new for World Cup
  • Capacity: 40,000 (25,000 permanent; 15,000 temporary)
  • Matches: quarter-finals, last 16
Other alternatives to the lower-capacity 40,000 (quarter-final, last 16) stadiums could theoretically include the revival of the Waterfront Stadium proposal in Vancouver (or at another location in Vancouver) and a new stadium at Victoria (or even a renovated and expanded Centennial Stadium at UVIC). Bid proposals presented to FIFA would propose renovations to existing facilities and the construction of new stadiums that meet FIFA technical and aesthetic standards. However, heavy global competition, with nations willing to spend vast amounts of money on building new world-class stadiums, will also mean that a Canadian bid will have to exceed minimum capability standards set by FIFA.

A rendering of Regina’s new 33,000-seat stadium for the CFL Roughriders, expandable to 40,000 for the CFL Grey Cup with temporary seats. The stadium will be completed in 2017 with a retractable roof at a cost of $278-million. (Source: RidersFans)

New Regina Stadium Rendering


Winter Olympic Games Repeat
Vancouver could always host the Winter Games again, assuming we play our cards right once more with the Canadian Olympic Committee (domestic approval and support is required before submitting an international bid) and the IOC. We held a highly successful 2010 Olympics (one that was also lauded as being economically and environmentally sustainable; one that provided great post-Games legacies) and it’s not that much of a far-fetched idea with all the sport venues required already built. Innsbruck and Lake Placid have both played host to the Olympic Winter Games on multiple occasions, and Salt Lake City is currently exploring the feasibility of a bid to host the 2022 Games – twenty-years after its first quadrennial. For a brief moment after the Vancouver 2010 afterglow, Quebec City considered a possible bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics (the city also submitted an unsuccessful bid for the 2002 Winter Games).

Vancouver could also theoretically land on the Winter Olympics again by accident in the near-future, assuming that we accept the challenge when called upon. When Denver made a shocking decision to reverse its decision on hosting the 1976 Winter Games through a 1972 referendum (citing rapidly rising costs and environmental concerns), it sent the IOC on a frantic for a new host city. In a desperation to save the 12th Winter Olympiad from cancellation, the IOC came knocking on Innsbruck’s door, which had hosted the 1964 Winter Games, and its government and citizens accepted the 1976 Games with open arms. I cannot say the same for Vancouver and British Columbia, given the intense political and activist opposition (and government red tape) we saw in the lead-up to our own 2010 Games. After Denver’s reversal, the IOC also offered Whistler the rights to host the 1976 Games, but its late offer was rejected due to a change in government following a provincial election. Along with Sion (Switzerland) and Tampere (Finland), Vancouver/Whistler had also submitted an unsuccessful bid in 1970 for the 1976 Winter Games.

During the 2010 Winter Games bidding process, the IOC’s Evaluation Commission final report gave Vancouver’s bid plan more positive remarks, evidence that Vancouver had a superior logistical and technical plan over its opponents Pyeongchang, South Korea and Salzburg, Austria.


Youth Olympic Games
There is also the recently IOC inaugurated quadrennial Youth Olympics, with both Summer and Youth editions. The first Summer Youth Olympics in 2010 (3,500 athletes, 19 sports venues) were held in Singapore, and the first Winter Youth Olympics in 2012 (1,060 athletes, 9 sports venues) were held in Innsbruck, Austria. The Singapore Games utilized existing and temporary venues, and cost more than $700-million to organize (including a $423-million Athletes Village at the National Technological University and $308-million in operational costs). Although the Youth Olympics provide little legacy, global attention, and media coverage, I would not be surprised if the Winter Youth Olympics were held in Vancouver/Whistler or Calgary in the near future considering only ex-Olympic Winter Games hosts, like Innsbruck (1964/1976), are capable of hosting its Youth edition.

There are very few cities out there with the capability of hosting the Winter Youth Olympics. No fiscally responsible city would build expensive venues like a bobsled track and ski jump just for the Winter Youth Games, and few cities would build such technically-specific venues on their own will unless they were preparing to host the actual Olympic Winter Games. Innsbruck spent close to $150-million to stage the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics, of which USD$121-million was directed towards building the Athletes Village. The next Summer Youth Olympics will be held at Nanjing, China in 2014 (you can certainly assume that the Chinese government will turn this into an extravagant large-scale affair) while the next Winter Youth Olympics in 2016 will be held in Lillehammer, Norway (host of the 1994 Olympic Winter Games). Youth Olympic Games host cities have 2-years to prepare for their respective events, Innsbruck was decided as the host city for 2012 during an IOC Session in Vancouver just before the 2010 Games.

The Opening Ceremony of the inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games at Singapore 2010. (Source:Scholastic)

Singapore 2010 - Opening Ceremony


Other international sporting events
Would we be compelled to host the Commonwealth Games again or the Pan American Games? Inaugurated in 1930 at Hamilton, Ontario, the Commonwealth Games have been held in Canada on numerous occasions and Vancouver has also played host in 1954. They were also held at Victoria in 1994, and ever since B.C.’s event it has grown much larger in size and scope, nearing the same proportions as the Winter Olympics (but without the global interest, sponsorship revenue, and media attention). The Commonwealth Games were recently held at Melbourne, Australia in 2006 and New Delhi, India in 2010 (while Melbourne 2006 was a great success, New Delhi 2010 has been seen as a dismal failure). In 2003, Hamilton submitted an unsuccessful bid to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The upcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, and in 2018 they will be held at Australia’s Gold Coast City.

At the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, an 11-day event, more than 6,000 athletes from 71 participating nations in the Commonwealth competed in 21 sports over 272 events. Comparatively, the larger 2011 Pan American Games at Guadalajara, Mexico lasted for 16-days, with 6,000 athletes from 42 participating nations from the Americas competing in 36 sports over 361 events. The Pan American Games are the second largest international summer sports event after the Summer Olympic Games, and are a partnership between the National Olympic Committees of the North American and South American continents; bearing the same National Olympic Committees for athlete participation (e.g. the Canadian Olympic Committee), the Pan American Sports Organization is a close ally with the International Olympic Committee. The Pan American Games hosting obligations are smaller than those of the global Summer Games; hosting the Pan American Games in Vancouver could be feasible (the scale in preparations required would be similar to what was experienced for the 2010 Winter Olympics). It would also give Vancouver some of the same venues and infrastructure that are required for hosting the Summer Olympics, this will only serve to help any cause to host the Summer Olympic Games in the future and adds on to Vancouver’s roster of experience in hosting major international sporting events. These are aspects that the IOC looks for when selecting its Olympic host city.

Rio de Janeiro used the 2007 Pan American Games to build some of the venues and infrastructure it needed to host the Summer Olympic Games later on; its successful Pan American Games also proved to the IOC that Rio de Janeiro, lacking previous experience, was logistically and technically capable of hosting a major international sports event, which led to Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic bid victory (coupled by the fact that it would also be the first Summer Olympics held in South America). Toronto hopes to do the same with its hosting of the 2015 Pan American Games; as mentioned above, Toronto is exploring the feasibility of bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. The host city for the 2024 Games will be decided in 2017, two years after Toronto’s 2015 Pan American Games.


Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Opening Ceremony (Source: CommonwealthGamesDelhi2010)

Delhi 2010 Opening Ceremony


Guadalajara 2011 Pan America Opening Ceremony (Source: Adam Caira)

Guadalajara 2011 Opening Ceremony



World’s Fair
Then there is also the World’s Fair. But we’ve been there, done that. Expo ’86 was highly successful, attracting 22-million visitors over 5 months it far exceeded its original estimate of 14-million. It has obviously created the city we live in today – it put us on the international stage, brought us SkyTrain, and paved the way towards enabling us to host the Winter Olympics. For some reason, however, the World’s Fair has never been held in North America ever since Vancouver’s in 1986.  If Vancouver were to bid for another Expo, the 308-acre False Creek Flats could be a potential fair site (adjacent to the Expo ’86 site).


Photo from Expo 1986 Vancouver (Source: Hazelbrae)

Expo 86 Vancouver


Photo from Expo 2005 Aichi, Japan (Source: Wikipedia)

Expo 2005 Aichi


And finally, we also have the option of doing nothing, which would certainly please many fiscal conservatives, activists and environmentalists.

Regardless, the 21st Olympic Winter Games in 2010 were something quite special for Canada, a memory to be cherished – something like it probably won’t be repeated here for quite some time. More than 9 years ago, in Prague on July 2, 2003, the Olympic Movement changed Vancouver forever when these words reverberated all the way home:

“The International Olympic Committee has the honour of announcing that the Games of the 21st Olympic Winter Games are awarded to the City of Vancouver.” – Jacques Rogge, IOC President. 

This concludes the series on the Vancouver Summer Olympic Games, I hope you enjoyed them!

LINKS: Read Part One and Part Two of the Vancouver Summer Olympic Games Special Series.


Written by Kenneth Chan, a Columnist at Vancity Buzz. Follow me on Twitter: @kjmagine

Featured image credit: Duncan Rawlinson


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