Whistler municipal councillor Cathy Jewett remembers the 2010 Olympic Winter and Paralympic Games fondly.
It would be hard to view them as anything but positive, considering her role working for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) as chief patrol for the 2010 ladies’ alpine ski events, alongside Whistler physician Karin Kausky.
“It was just a great experience,” Jewett said. From attending the closing ceremonies at BC Place to celebrating Canada’s gold-medal men’s hockey win on the streets of downtown Vancouver, to being on-site for all of the drama and glory—and, of course, to cheer for local athletes—during the alpine events on Whistler Blackcomb’s slopes, “it was very exciting to be a part of.”
If all goes according to plan, a new generation of British Columbians could have the opportunity to create their own Olympic memories in less than a decade. Preliminary discussions have been underway since grassroots, not-for-profit society Vancouver 2030 was established to explore the viability of bringing the Games back to B.C.
Vancouver city Coun. Melissa De Genova initially tabled a motion back in 2020 to consider the feasibility of a second Winter Olympic bid, that proponents argue would limit both cost and environmental impact by making use of existing facilities built for 2010.
The timing is 'just about right'—but not for everyone
While Vancouver might be the city named by the bid exploration committee, the reality is that a significant portion of a Vancouver 2030 Olympics would take place in Whistler.
Whistler Sports Legacies (WSL) president Roger Soane said he, his colleagues and WSL’s board are excited about the proposition and “100 per cent supportive” of the team behind the feasibility study. The local not-for-profit organization is responsible for managing the resort’s legacy venues resulting from the 2010 Games, including the Whistler Sliding Centre and Whistler Olympic Park.
“With our facilities, it will be very easy for us to say, ‘Come on in,’” he explained. “We've got the only sliding centre in Canada; we have the only ski jumps in Canada, and we have one of the best Nordic facilities in the country as well. We have all the pieces to still facilitate seven events on our venues—it's a perfect fit.”
In terms of timing, hosting a second Olympics two decades after the first would be “just about right,” Soane said. Even by 2030, WSL’s venues will be in “relatively good shape,” he claimed. “But if you pushed it any longer, they may need a little bit more work.”
Jewett agreed hosting another Olympic Games in Whistler would be both efficient and effective, but admitted “there's a few hurdles yet to jump.”
The biggest might just be the question of public support.
In a January 2020 poll marking the tenth anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Research Co. president Mario Canseco asked British Columbians to look back at the events and consider the prospect of welcoming the Games back. At the time, 60 per cent of respondents were willing to explore a new Winter Olympic bid.
Over the almost two years since, support appears to have fallen. Survey results released at the end of October reveal just 43 per cent of British Columbians would support Vancouver attempting to host the 2030 Olympics, down 17 points since January 2020. A majority of B.C. residents (55 per cent) also think it is impossible for Vancouver to host the 2030 Games without any public or government funds, as some have suggested.
Support for the Games appears marginally higher in Whistler, where it’s clear not all locals are as enthusiastic about the prospect of hosting another Olympics as Soane and Jewett. In a poll on Pique’s website that asked 289 readers whether they’d approve of a Vancouver/Whistler 2030 bid, 48 per cent of local respondents and 49.83 per cent of total respondents answered “Yes.” An identical 48 per cent of locals (44.29 per cent of total respondents) said they are not open to a bid, while four per cent of locals (5.88 per cent total) said, “Maybe, for the right price.”
A lack of public support, it should be noted, was largely what halted a possible Calgary 2026 Olympic bid from crossing the finish line three years ago.
'We have to do what's best for our community'
“To me, it’s [a question of] how it fits into the budget,” said Soane, adding, “If you look at 2010 and the benefits that we have seen in Whistler, it was a great investment.”
Among those paybacks, said Jewett, are the housing and land resulting from the Athlete’s Village in Cheakamus Crossing, the “world-class” Whistler Olympic Park Nordic facilities in the Callaghan Valley, and the lesser-mentioned increased snowmaking capacity on Whistler Blackcomb. “It really upped our game for early and late season skiing,” she explained.
In Soane’s view, the key to drumming up support would be convincing naysayers of what Whistler could gain from another Games. That could include upgrades to the Callaghan Valley, as well as much-needed additions to Whistler’s affordable housing stock, he said.
“You're never going to have 100 per cent of people on board about pretty much anything, and you have to honour that,” said Soane. “We have to do what's best for our community and what's best for our province and the country—and has anyone done the math yet?
“We've got to look at that,” he continued. “I'm not going to say at any cost, never. The whole idea would be [that] this would be a lower cost and we could get some amenities out of it.”
As the Canadian Olympic Committee steadies its focus on the fast-approaching 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, both the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Tourism Whistler declined to comment on a potential bid at this time.
After Beijing, the 2026 Winter Olympics are slated to take place in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Sapporo, Japan has also conducted a feasibility study for a 2030 bid, as have Barcelona and the Pyrenees region (they’re proposing a joint effort that would see events split among Spain, Andorra and France). Salt Lake City, site of the 2002 Olympics, has also expressed interest in hosting, but with Los Angeles set to host the Summer Games in 2028, is mulling whether to bid for 2034 instead.
The winning 2030 host city is expected to be announced in 2022 or 2023.