Canadian Olympic Committee to seriously consider Vancouver 2030 bid

Aug 3 2021, 3:48 pm

A repeat Vancouver Olympic performance for the 2030 Winter Games will be seriously eyed by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

Early this year, City of Vancouver staff stated the COC is currently preoccupied with safely preparing Canadian athletes for the Tokyo Summer Games and Beijing Winter Games in February 2022 under the backdrop of global COVID-19 conditions. The COC was said to be interested at the time, but was not prepared to dedicate resources into bidding until at least after the Tokyo Games.

However, private letters from COC leadership that have recently surfaced now provide more context and greater clarity about their position on a potential Vancouver bid.

“When we resume our Olympic bid activities, Vancouver will be the only option considered for a potential bid for the Winter Games,” wrote David Shoemaker, the CEO and Secretary General of the COC, in a February 2021 letter, translated from French to English.

“As indicated previously, our analysis of conditions in various Canadian cities conducted in 2020, which was complemented by consultation with the Canadian sport community, governments and Games experts, informed this decision.”

The letter early this year also stated the COC’s board of directors had just held a meeting that decided “all activities related to the determination of a future candidacy of Canada hosting the Olympics would be suspended for at least a year.”

This February 2021 letter was written for the purpose of informing a group in Quebec that the COC does not support a Quebec City bid for the 2030 Games, and that they should cease their efforts.

“Before spending more time and resources to your campaign, we feel it is our duty to inform you, once again, that Quebec will not be considered by the COC as a candidate for a possible Olympic candidacy in view of 2030,” continues the February 2021 letter.

In fact, the COC has repeatedly informed a group that deems itself the Quebec City 2030 Bid Committee that their city would not be considered for Canada’s bid. The letter also indicated the COC had changed the domestic approach of how potential Olympic bids would be considered, with the COC now determining the feasibility and leading the charge. It should also be noted that the COC is based in Quebec, with its headquarters office located in downtown Montreal.

“Recently, the COC has adopted a more active and strategic approach in order to consider the possibilities of hosting Canada. In this context, we have carried out an evaluation of feasible candidates across the country, analyzing factors such as site infrastructure, local capacity to host thousands of athletes and visitors, compliance with the principles of Agenda 2020 of the IOC and the political will to initiate a candidacy process,” reads a November 2020 letter from Shoemaker to the Quebec group.

“Although we believe that Quebec City has the potential to present a viable application in the future, the COC assessed, based on our analysis overall and the position of the current mayor, that the ideal conditions were not present for attempt to host a Winter Games in 2030.”

In a more recent letter from Andrew Baker, the COC vice president of international relations and public affairs, to Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, it was emphasized that the COC has the sole authority over whether a Canadian bid to host the Olympics will be submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“The Olympic Charter grants the Canadian Olympic Committee exclusive authority to determine whether or not the submission of a city’s bid to host the Olympic Games in Canada,” wrote Baker in April 2021.

“We have clearly indicated to Mr. Charest, on at least three separate occasions, that we do not approve of the unilateral efforts of the group to position Quebec as a potential candidate to host the Games of 2030.”

He wrote that “our assessment leads us to see a Vancouver bid for the 2030 Games as a priority to be explored over the next year.”

Baker added that Charest’s groups’ “claims could hinder other application efforts, including a future candidacy from Quebec, since they create confusion and doubt about the process. It is essential to any successful bid that the Canadian public see that the COC and the cities potential hosts are organized, work collaboratively, and have well-defined plans.”

In a public statement immediately after the group’s press conference in April 2021 announcing their bid plans, the COC said “the timing was not right for the city to submit an application” and that they “communicated this decision to the local group that made a one-sided announcement on the preparation of a nomination file. Hosting the Olympic Games in Canada represents an exceptional opportunity for our country and it is a responsibility that we take seriously.”

Labeaume, who previously supported the idea of Quebec City bidding for the 2026 Winter Games, and even directly pitched IOC leadership, has also publicly indicated he is strongly against the group’s efforts for 2030.

Quebec City came last amongst four bid cities during the IOC’s host city vote in 1995 for the 2002 Winter Games, which were awarded to Salt Lake City.

In 1998, the COC chose Vancouver as Canada’s bid for the 2010 Games over other domestic campaigns by Quebec City and Calgary.

Although the group is pitching a plan to host the Winter Games in Quebec City, their plan seriously contemplates a dependence on the winter sports venues located in Whistler or Calgary Olympic Park.

Whistler Olympic Park would host Quebec City 2030’s nordic skiing events including ski jumping, while Whistler Sliding Centre at the base of Blackcomb Mountain would host Quebec City 2030’s bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton events. Plan B for the group is to consider building new temporary or permanent facilities for these sports in Quebec.

Another challenge for Quebec City is the lack of a local mountain suitable Olympic-calibre downhill skiing venue. The group is bringing back the 2002 bid’s idea of using Le Massif de Charlevoix, but perceived solutions to change the shape of the mountain by artificially adding height to reach the bare minimum standards have repeatedly been rejected over the years by the International Ski Federation.

The group suggests Quebec City could propose a new concept of two shorter downhill runs for the Olympic events or “simply hold this discipline elsewhere in Canada,” such as Whistler Creekside, which held the 2010 downhill events.

Although the IOC’s Agenda 2030 reforms encourage bids to propose reusing existing facilities within a “host region,” the distance between Quebec City and the West Coast is likely highly impractical.

The Winter Games have grown significantly in size since Quebec City’s last bid plans were unsuccessfully pitched in 2002, with more disciplines, athletes, and media personnel added for the most recent Games.

The IOC generally considers Winter Games hosts with at least 25,000 hotel beds to be sufficient for the needs of both media and visitor accommodations, without having to construct new purpose-built accommodations. Metro Vancouver and Whistler have a combined total of over 35,000 rooms, including about 13,000 rooms within downtown Vancouver, nearly 13,000 rooms elsewhere in the region, and over 10,000 rooms in Whistler.

The Quebec City group has indicated the need to not only build an Olympic Village for athletes, but also a Media Village for the temporary housing needs of broadcasting staff and accredited journalists.

At this early stage, Quebec City 2030 would carry a total estimated cost of over $5 billion.

In essence, the Winter Games concept in Quebec City depending on Vancouver 2010’s legacy appears to be fanciful, while BC could host the Winter Games again on its own and is indeed seriously considering.

Proponents for Vancouver 2030 are pitching the strengths of reusing the sports venues, facilities, and infrastructure built for the 2010 Winter Games, and tapping into the strong sports hosting experience legacy — the know-how that led to Vancouver’s roles in hosting the annual World Rugby’s Canada Sevens, 2019 IIHF World Juniors, and its central role in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Based on the letters, the COC appears to acknowledge all of these advantages as the basis for its strong preference to consider a Vancouver bid.

Vancouver 2010 is regarded as a highly successful Winter Games both domestically and internationally that established a positive post-Games legacy of ensuring the new sports venues would not go under-utilized.

The IOC is not expected to begin the process of selecting a 2030 host city until after the Beijing Games, but already, Vancouver has the conditions of being the frontrunner in this race.

So far, there has been expressed interest from Spain for a Barcelona-Pyrenees bid, but this would mark the third European Olympics within a span of just six years, following Paris 2024 and Milan Cortina 2026.

Prior to Tokyo 2020’s troubles, Japan had been planning on submitting a Sapporo 2030 bid. However, the controversies and public outcry surrounding the Tokyo Games could make a Sapporo pitch a difficult proposition for the foreseeable future.

Salt Lake City is interested in bidding for the 2030 or 2034 Games, but 2030 would potentially clash with the larger Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games just 18 months prior. Hosting the 2028 and 2030 Games in the United States, essentially back-to-back, could be financially detrimental to both Olympics, as they would compete for the same pool of corporate dollars.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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