Vancouver 2030 Olympics returns to City Council's agenda for economic recovery

Nov 1 2020, 6:29 pm

The idea of Vancouver bidding for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games will return to city council’s agenda during the public meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

This was a deliberation originally scheduled for April 1, but the meeting was cancelled upon the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the agenda item was deferred to a future date as a result.

City council will discuss the original motion, moved by NPA councillor Melissa De Genova, on exploring the feasibility of a bid, including reaching out to the federal and provincial governments, Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), Canadian Paralympic Committee, and local First Nations to request their input and gauge potential interest.

De Genova’s motion was sparked by former VANOC CEO John Furlong’s pitch during the 10-year anniversary celebrations of Vancouver 2010 that called on local government officials, businesses, and the community to back a 2030 bid.

Over half a year later, De Genova says she will be urging city council to consider the 2030 Olympics as a major tool that will assist in the economic recovery of the city and the region, in the same way the 2010 Olympics have been credited for keeping Metro Vancouver’s economy afloat during the years-long recovery period from the 2008 recession — before and after the Games.

“As a city councillor, I see it as my duty and responsibility to leave no stone unturned, and consider all opportunities to bring benefits to our city, and the catalyze the prosperity of our residents,” De Genova told Daily Hive Urbanized in an interview.

“More now than ever, I think we need to look at every single opportunity we have to support our economy. I would hope that my fellow city councillors and the mayor will look at this from the angle of offering new economic opportunities… This could be a missed opportunity if we don’t move forward with this.”

Olympic anniversary

The Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza relit on February 12, 2020 for the 10-year anniversary of Vancouver 2010. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

It would be a complete understatement to say Furlong is aligned with De Genova’s approach for having the discussions focus on how the 2030 Games could assist with economic revival. He indicated that other municipal jurisdictions in the region informed him that they also want to be part of the conversation.

Fundamentally, Furlong believes the rationale for pursuing a bid for a repeat Olympic performance is now far stronger.

He evoked the intense sense of unity and civic pride spurred by BC’s highly successful staging of the 2010 Olympics, and the can-do spirit that seeped into every jurisdiction along the Sea-to-Sky Corridor and Lower Mainland in the years-long lead-up preparing for the Games.

“The case is better today than it was in February, because today we are in this situation where morale is very low, there’s not a lot of hopeful thinking going on, and governments are reaching for ideas. The expectation is we will overcome this, but people aren’t sure how we will do that,” Furlong told Daily Hive Urbanized in an interview.

“Now, given everything that has happened, and you look down the road and people are wondering when will this all be over, and what’s the plan when it is over, this would be one of those rare things where we can use the infrastructure of 2010 to our advantage.”

vancouver 2010 bc place rogers arena

BC Place and Canada Hockey Place (Rogers Arena/GM Place) during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. (Hulse & Durrell)

As he pointed out early this year, the sports facilities and infrastructure built for the 2010 Games are in excellent shape and can be reused with ease.

A new Olympic Village is necessary to house athletes and officials, but the construction of such accommodations could align with the dire need to build additional affordable housing in Vancouver.

While new infrastructure would not be required, the 2030 Games could provide levels of government with the drive needed to realize long-term transportation projects earlier, such as the Millennium Line Broadway Extension between Arbutus and UBC. Of course, this was also the result of the 2010 Games, with the Sea-to-Sky Highway upgrades, Canada Line, and Vancouver Convention Centre expansion planned by the provincial government with or without the Games.

Furlong paints the picture that this could be the most sustainable Olympics in history.

“It would be the first time in Olympic history that it would look like this being presented to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It would be the first time a country would go in and say, ‘we actually have a plan.’ The Games can be done really responsibly.”

This is also what the IOC wants, as the host city selection and Games organizing processes have completely changed from what Vancouver experienced during the 2000s.

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.

The IOC is now also providing the local organizing committee with a significantly larger share of revenue from international sponsors and TV rights. For the 2026 Games in Milan, the IOC is allocating US$925 million (CAD$1.23 billion). This is in addition to the organizing committee’s ability to raise revenue from domestic sponsors.

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

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay

Day 106 – Torchbearer John Brock is passing the flame to torchbearer John Brockin front of the official countdown clock in Vancouver. (VANOC / City of Vancouver Archives)

The reforms could potentially also mean a longer timeline to plan for the Games after being awarded the host city rights. Typically, the timeline is seven years from being awarded the Games to the Opening Ceremony, as was the case for 2010. But both Paris and Los Angeles were awarded the rights to host the Summer Games in 2024 and 2028, respectively in 2017. For Los Angeles, that will be a runway of 11 years.

“The advantage to trying to get a bid early and maybe winning early is it gives you more time. The more time you have, the better. Putting on the Olympics, it’s gone in a flash, so the more time you have it just gives everybody more time to achieve what they want to do,” said Furlong.

“It takes a lot to do it, but we are in this very unique place where we not only have the facilities, but also people to do it, the expertise in town, and very seasoned businesses, government, and tourism professionals. Vancouver and the region has been trained for this, so essentially we’d be dusting off our credentials, starting again, and using it to achieve the next level of good.”

Back in the 1990s when the 2010 bid was initiated, about a decade after Expo ’86, Furlong recalled Tourism Vancouver’s efforts to spearhead the movement of hosting the Games, and Glen Clark’s BC NDP provincial government throwing its weight for the appeal to the COC to select Vancouver over Calgary and Quebec City for the rights to be Canada’s bid.

“The question is can we use 2030 to help inspire behaviour from everybody to come together and lift the city out of this, and leave some really positive legacies,” added Furlong.

“If ever we needed a spiritual lift, an emotional lift, or a hopeful lift, it’s now. If we were to go into this and achieve this, we’d have more time to do it — we’d have a longer window in which to really take advantage of the power of something like this to get people excited, get our confidence back, and rehabilitate our morale.”

vancouver 2010 crowds granville street

Crowds on Granville Street after Canada’s Men’s Ice Hockey gold medal win during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. (Hulse & Durrell)

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