Could Vancouver be made a permanent Olympic Winter Games host city?

Feb 17 2023, 7:45 pm

Ever since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the landmark announcement in December 2022 that it was considering transitioning the Winter Olympics to a rotating host city system, it has sparked renewed interest and discussion in hosting these Games.

That particular announcement also put the IOC’s process of selecting the host city for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games on hold, pushing the timeline for the host city selection from September/October 2023 to sometime in 2024.

This IOC decision came just a week after the Government of British Columbia announced it was not prepared to provide the financial support needed to re-host the Games in Vancouver, effectively putting a damper on the joint efforts of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and First Nations to pursue a 2030 bid. Their efforts have not been officially cancelled yet.

The idea of designating a pool of host cities around the world as permanent host cities, as opposed to one-off hosting duties, changes the entire dynamic and cost-benefit analysis. And it is certainly likely to increase competition to land one of these spots, with previous host cities — with existing venues, facilities, and infrastructure — having the upper hand.

On Tuesday, Rob Livingstone, a Toronto-based online sports hosting news publication that has been comprehensively covering all Olympic bids for over two decades, told Daily Hive Urbanized that this could be a ploy by the IOC to get bids to the table right now or they may not get the chance later. The field of potential candidates narrowed considerably after Vancouver’s bid efforts hit a snag.

“What a permanent host city rotation will look like is not yet clear. Will it be two, three, four or more? That’s a tough task for the IOC — to expect host commitments over decades despite changes in governments, economies, infrastructure and several other important factors,” said Livingstone.

“Then, who will they choose? Would it be continental rotation? Would they pick Salt Lake City and snub Canada, where a Summer Games is much less likely? Several locations in Europe will want to be chosen. Strong partners in Asia — Japan, China, South Korea and some point again in the future, Russia — will not want to be excluded.”

FIFA briefly had a continental rotation system for selecting its World Cup host countries, which was used for selecting South Africa for 2010 and Brazil for 2014.

Livingstone emphasizes that the odds are in Vancouver’s favour, if it wants it.

Both Sapporo and Vancouver are “still in it” to be considered for 2030 if they can address their current impasses. For Sapporo, the potential 2030 bid to bring back the Winter Games to Japan was dealt with two big blows in recent months — the emergence of a corruption scandal surrounding the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and falling levels of public support based on the most recent surveys.

He said a 2030 bid from Spain cannot be ruled out, which had previously advanced a bid by Barcelona until political infighting between regions of the country led to the effort’s collapse.

At this point, Salt Lake City’s bid effort has the most momentum, with advanced planning and widespread public support. But they have shifted their attention from 2030 to landing in 2034 instead, mainly due to the potential competing impacts on sponsorship revenue by hosting the 2030 Winter Games just a year and a half after the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games.

Sapporo and Salt Lake City join Vancouver as the hosts of the Winter Games of 1972, 2002, and 2010, respectively, while Barcelona hosted the 1992 Summer Games. In recent years, the IOC has made major reforms in simplifying and reducing the costs and risks of both the bidding process and the hosting process.

This month, Sweden suddenly emerged as a potential candidate for pursuing the right to host 2030. It has never hosted the Winter Games, but it can work on refreshing the bid plans of its relatively recent failed Stockholm bid against Milan for 2026.

“I think Vancouver would definitely be in the running if they wish to be considered. That’s a big ‘if‘ though, if they can get multi-level government support for what it seems might be an indefinite period,” said Livingstone.

“Sweden last week expressed interest, and that could be a good fit — but there is a long way to go before they put together a viable bid.”

In a statement to Daily Hive Urbanized, the COC says they remain committed to the Indigenous-led 2030 bid. They were previously engaged with the IOC in 2030 but have not yet discussed the potential new direction to permanent hosting duties.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee believes in the power of sport to transform Canada and that holding the Olympics is an incredible opportunity for any host region and the country. We have not undertaken discussions with the IOC about the rotating future Games concept, but we support their efforts to find sustainable options for hosting future Olympic Winter Games,” reads the COC’s statement.

The provincial government also says they are not in a position to weigh on the IOC’s new approach, given the lack of information or the request to do so at this time.

“The Province has an established process that is applied when reviewing potential hosting opportunities such as the Olympics and Paralympic Games. This involves reviewing the potential costs, risks and benefits of each event to ensure we are maximizing opportunities for British Columbians,” reads a statement from the Government of BC to Daily Hive Urbanized.

“We have not received any information or been formally invited to participate in a rotation group for the Olympic and Paralympic Games; therefore, we cannot evaluate the opportunity or comment on whether we would consider participating. If the government receives a formal invitation, we will take the time to fully review the information provided.”


Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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