Daphne Bramham: Vancouver keeps hopes alive for a 2030 Winter Games, but needs live support

It is still far from certain that Vancouver’s indigenous-led bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics will have enough support to make it to the IOC.


It is not yet certain that a $4 billion indigenous-led bid from Vancouver for the 2030 Winter Olympics will make it to the International Olympic Committee for consideration early next year.

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The only sure thing is that Vancouver, Whistler, the four host First Nations and the Canadian Olympic Committee will continue to work together in preparing the so-called settlement offer.

This week, the Vancouver council ordered work to continue with the aim of completing a multi-party deal by November, despite a scathing 47-page staff. report warning of “potentially unlimited financial risk.”

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and most of the councilors ignored dire warnings from staff after hearing from leaders of Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Lil’wat, Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton and President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Tricia Smith.

All but two of the Vancouver councilmembers ignored warnings that on such a tight deadline, staff may not be able to get the information they need to even quantify potential costs to the city, let alone negotiate legal settlements. necessary.

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In clearly practical terms, what happened this week is that Vancouver’s overwhelmingly supportive council left a final decision for November and for the next council, one that might not be so enthusiastic.

By rejecting the Count. Colleen Hardwick’s motion to hold a plebiscite concurrent with the civic election, the mayor and seven aldermen have deliberately or inadvertently turned the election into a referendum.

They are betting their re-election hopes in part on whether voters believe the as-yet-unquantified costs, risks and benefits of hosting another Olympics are worth it.

Hardwick, who is running for mayor, voted against continuing to work on the bid because of staff concerns and what he called the Democratic deficit of not allowing residents to vote.

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Immediately after Wednesday’s vote, Hardwick promised that if she is elected mayor, she will push for a plebiscite before the IOC makes its final decision in May on the 2030 host city.

The other councilor who opposed continuing the candidacy was Jean Swanson, a lifelong social activist. Earl Christine Boyle was absent.

“A part of me can’t stop thinking about alternative spending for the money,” Swanson said. Among the alternatives she mentioned was a healing center for indigenous women and girls who have been asking for such support for 30 years, as well as more affordable housing.

Swanson said he also couldn’t support involving thousands of people to fly here when 2030 is the year everyone is supposed to have met carbon reduction targets.

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Although Vancouver directed staff to keep working on the offer, their vote does not override the reality that even with an “all hands on deck” approach like the one city staff took in 2010, the work is not completed on time.

Senior management is already carrying out preparatory work for the October elections, briefing notes for the council, the 2023-24 budget, the 2023 Laver Cup tennis tournament, the 2025 Invictus Games and the 2026 FIFA World Cup. .

They are also left in an unenviable position. Part of what needs to be done is political. With the council on its month-long August recess followed by what is described as “the quiet period” during the fall campaign, who will decide which projects should be cut from the recently approved five-year capital plan to pay related expenses? with the games? improvements to city-owned places?

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Although Musqueam’s boss, Wayne Sparrow, urged the Vancouver council on Wednesday to “stay in the canoe” and continue working toward a multi-party agreement, he acknowledged how much crucial information on costs and risks still needs to be collected and analyzed.

When that is done, he said First Nations and their communities will also need to take a hard look at whether the Olympics are worth it.

“It may not make sense, but we have to get to that (point of having the information). I’m not stuck on yes or no (to the offer),” Sparrow said. “Once the questions are answered, we can see what can be achieved. But I’m not stuck on yes or no.”

Crucial to the bid is a commitment from the British Columbia government to share the estimated $1.2 billion public cost of the Games, as well as a guarantee to cover some or all of any cost overruns as it did in 2010.

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Without that, the offer is dead.

The federal government has a policy of not compensating sporting events. You still have to make any funding commitments. But the Vancouver council appeared to trust the Canadian Olympic Committee president’s assurance that once the provincial government commits, the federal government will follow suit.

That happened in 2010. But it was in the midst of rebuilding after an economic collapse, rather than in the midst of an ongoing pandemic that has cost billions of dollars to keep the economy, people and businesses afloat.

Among other differences is that in 2010, then-Prime Minister Gordon Campbell was the biggest proponent of the Olympics and the province hadn’t quite committed $290 million for Vancouver to host five FIFA World Cup games. Nor was the BC government forced by public uproar to make a humiliating retreat after announcing plans for a $789 million provincial museum.

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Those two recent events are undoubtedly behind BC’s long list of preconditions for funding the Olympics and its warning to the feasibility team that provincial support should not be assumed.

Prime Minister John Horgan is also not Gordon Campbell. In addition to belatedly endorsing FIFA’s bid, Horgan is stepping down and his successor will be decided on December 3.

In his last days in office, Horgan could make the decision. With his huge ramifications for the province’s finances and potentially the future of reconciliation, he could shield his successor from blame should things go wrong.

Instead, Horgan might prefer to walk away and leave this increasingly messy business to his replacement.

[email protected]

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

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