First-ever Indigenous-led bid to pursue 2030 Olympics in Vancouver

Dec 10 2021, 9:27 pm

The effort to bring the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to Vancouver will be the first-ever Indigenous-led bid in the history of the Olympic movement.

The local First Nations of the Metro Vancouver and Sea-to-Sky regions — Lilwat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh — have partnered with the City of Vancouver and Resort Municipality of Whistler to begin the process of assessing the feasibility of re-hosting the Winter Games in 2030.

All six entities involved signed a memorandum of understanding early Friday afternoon to establish a Host Nations Exploratory Assembly for the potential bid.

They will now work with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), and other stakeholders, ahead of the possible future formation of a bid committee for any formal competitive pitch to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

If the group determines the 2030 Games are feasible, a bid committee is expected to be assembled in early spring 2022, after the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. There would be further agreements to sign between the First Nations and municipal governments, as well as necessary city council approvals sometime before July 2022.

An Indigenous-led bid is being considered under reconciliation, and while the Four Host First Nations were also highly represented in Vancouver 2010, the forthcoming approach will be a complete departure from the 2010 Games.

“I have nothing but good feelings moving forward, especially stepping into the doors and being triggered by such inspiration from the 2010 Olympics. The nations at that time really had a meaningful part in that journey, but also understanding that it really took a lot of work,” said Wilson Williams, the elected Squamish Nation councillor and spokesperson.

“It was a no brainer when we closed our doors in our council meetings, but everyone expressed the journey it will take and the hard work… Canada needs to get on board, and it is us that will lead the way.”

During the press conference held at BC Place Stadium, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart described the framework of the partnership as the Four Host First Nations inviting the municipal governments of Vancouver and Whistler to consider the potential of hosting the Olympics on their traditional lands.

“I know many Vancouver residents have fond memories of the Vancouver 2010 Games. They brought much joy to the city, country, and the world,” said Stewart.

“But the step we are taking today is much different than those taken to establish the 2010 Games. While the 2010 Games included Indigenous representation, the 2030 Games cannot proceed without the informed consent of these Four First Nations.”

Stewart also says there have already been “positive discussions” with the federal and provincial governments.

Whistler mayor Jack Crompton added: “I have a real sense that my role is to follow, and I am ready to put my shoulder behind this effort by these [First Nations] leaders. We saw such great benefits from the 2010 Games… we were inspired, our kids talk about it.”

Tricia Smith, president of the COC and a member of the IOC, was present at today’s event, calling it a “historic” partnership that fully aligns with the COC’s process and calls for reconciliation.

“The Games concept could be a vehicle for transformative change,” said Smith.

Venues and infrastructure built for the 2010 Games are expected to be optimally re-used as much as possible to lower costs and enhance sustainability goals. Vancouver city councillors Melissa De Genova and Sarah Kirby-Yung suggested that with much of the physical requirements already in place, the 2030 Games could potentially focus on creating establishing a different type of legacy focus on Indigenous reconciliation and employment opportunities, and cultural benefits.

Under the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms initiated in 2014, the IOC is encouraging host regions to reuse the existing facilities they have, where they have it.Ā The IOC has already pointed to Vancouver 2010 as a model example for hosting a sustainable Olympics.

For this reason, several previous Olympic hosts have indicated their interest in potentially bidding for 2030, including Sapporo in Japan (1972 Winter), Barcelona (1992 Summer), and Salt Lake City (2002 Winter).

A Salt Lake City bid committee backed by the USOC has already formed and met with IOC leadership earlier this month. However, they have yet to decide whether to bid for the 2030 or 2034 Games. For Salt Lake City, they are possibly challenged by 2030 as it would be just 18 months apart from the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games. Back-to-back Olympics in the United States could potentially compete for the same pool of sponsorship and resources, and marketing attention.

While other potential bid cities have already had discussions with the IOC, Smith says Vancouver is “on track.”

She told Daily Hive Urbanized that the IOC is likely to determine the 2030 host city in 2023, so there is still time for the First Nations and governments to assemble their plans.

Today’s MOU announcement formalizes planning efforts by the COC, First Nations, municipal governments, and other stakeholders since 2020.

“We’ve been working on this for sometime now under the authority of the Four Host First Nations. We asked permission to do some preliminary work previously, so today is the launch officially,” Smith told Daily Hive Urbanized.

She anticipates a collaboration agreement between the COC and Four Host First Nations will be finalized in early January 2022, and that will put the efforts on track to reach the international bidding phase with the IOC by late 2022.

Smith added that the process that led to the IOC’s negotiation-driven decision in Summer 2021 to award Brisbane, Australia the rights to host the 2032 Summer Games is now the IOC’s process moving forward for determining hosts. The IOC also awarded Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 simultaneously in 2017.

The host city selection process is now more collaborative, flexible, and negotiable, unlike the rigid high-stakes regulated competition of the past. With fewer requirements, the process to plan and submit a candidature is also less costly.

“We’ll follow along with the process that was followed by Brisbane. The IOC will bring a city or two into targeted dialogue and make the decision,” she said.

The IOC’s reforms have also greatly reduced the costs of the bid committee. The 2010 bid committee spent roughly $35 million in the lead up to the IOC’s July 2003 vote on the host city, but the efforts to land on 2030 could be a small fraction of that figure. According to the IOC in July 2020, the average bid committee budget for the two bid cities for 2026 ā€” Milan and Stockholm ā€” was under USD$5 million (CAD$6.4 million).

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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