Could the Olympics come back to Whistler?
It's a question that's been posed before, but after an unexpected phone call from the mayor of Quebec City to the mayor of Whistler, the speculation gained a sense of possibility.
Quebec City is considering a bid for the 2026 Games, and Mayor Régis Labeaume is reaching out to potential partners, including Calgary, AB, Lake Placid, NY, and of course, Whistler.
"What Régis told me was that he'd been approached by the IOC to see if Quebec City would be interested in putting in a bid for the 2026 games, and that they were very much encouraging a partnering approach to a bid to make hosting the Games more affordable," Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said, of the phone call.
Would Whistler be interested?
"I said absolutely," Wilhelm-Morden said. "Of course we have to talk to the community, I have to talk to council, we have to talk to our partners and investigate this further, but on the face of it, the idea of partnering with Quebec City was very appealing and intriguing at the same time."
With discussion around the potential bid very much still in the early stages, it's hard to talk logistics.
But it's no secret Whistler has the world-class venues needed for such a partnership.
"That's what we were built and designed for," said Roger Soane, president and CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies.
"As far as we're concerned, we would love to be involved in another major event like an Olympics. If it could happen, that would be great."
Whistler would likely be considered for bobsleigh, luge, skeleton, ski jumping and possibly biathlon. Since the number of athletes would be significantly fewer than those who came to British Columbia in 2010, Soane wouldn't expect as many issues to arise.
"We're not talking about a huge amount of athletes, so I don't think accommodation would be as much of a challenge as it was during 2010," he said.
"My guess would be we would only get, maybe, the sliding sports, ski jumping and maybe one other. There's a lot of other components to it as well. We could host a lot of the events, but I'm sure there would be quite an appetite for hosting a lot of the events in Quebec."
With sliding tracks opening in PyeongChang, South Korea, and Beijing, China— the sites of the next two Winter Games — Soane said there isn't a need to build new ones beyond that. That would make 18 venues for only eight World Cup races each year, making it difficult to keep all the tracks sufficiently busy.
"When you look at our venues and if you took the sliding centre and (ski) jumps, if you were to build them today, or in 10 years from now, you're looking at half-a-billion dollars. It's a very attractive thing to say that we can knock those two off and just spend a few million upgrading them and making sure that they are ready for the Games," he said.
Labeaume will travel to Lausanne, Switzerland on April 11 for a meeting with IOC president Thomas Bach, after which Wilhelm-Morden is expecting another phone call.
"No doubt he will be in touch with me to say whether they are interested in moving forward, and don't forget that they're looking at Calgary and Lake Placid, NY as well, so there's going to have to be timetables set as to when the various decisions are made and so on," she said.
"I want to hear from the community. What does the community think about this possibility?"
-With files from Dan Falloon
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