Could Whistler and Vancouver host the 2030 Games? 

John Furlong, President of 2010 Olympic organizing committee, makes the case for a 2030 bid

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF COASTPHOTO.COM - (Bring) BACK THE BID? Despite some recent buzz around a potential 2030 Olympic bid, there's 'a lot of ground to cover' before any decisions land at  the council table, according to Mayor Jack Crompton.
  • File photo Courtesy of Coastphoto.com
  • (Bring) BACK THE BID? Despite some recent buzz around a potential 2030 Olympic bid, there's 'a lot of ground to cover' before any decisions land at the council table, according to Mayor Jack Crompton.

As Whistler celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the buzz is beginning to build around a possible bid for the 2030 Games.

In a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, John Furlong, who co-led the bid for the 2010 Games, made the case for 2030.

The comments were far from off-the-cuff, Furlong explained in an interview on Feb. 25, and bidding on the 2030 Games represents a real opportunity for B.C. and Canada.

"In this city—and I think you could probably include Whistler and other communities in some of this as well—some of the big challenges for the community today are housing, unaffordable housing, homelessness, transportation issues, communities are trying to go green really fast, they want to fight climate change, young people want to work for organizations that are doing good in the community," Furlong said.

"We're talking about rapidly changing times. And so the theory behind this proposal is that the Olympic Games could be rocket fuel to move communities toward achieving some of their higher aspirations."

The message to the Board of Trade was "very well received," Furlong said.

"In the next several weeks, we're going to try to bring together all of the potential partners in this to have a conversation, to achieve a number of ends—one is to make sure that we're all operating off the same information sheet, that everybody understands what this is and what it isn't, so there's absolute clarity about what we would be doing and what we would have to do, and how to go about winning," he said.

"So I believe that there's an opportunity to do something spectacular here, or something remarkable that may help us advance our issues, our big issues, and maybe deliver the most sustainable, greenest Olympic project in all of human history."

From a Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) perspective, the conversation is one for a bid committee and the Prime Minister to have before it finds itself on any community agendas, said Mayor Jack Crompton.

"If a bid is presented to our community, we will have a thorough public engagement around it," Crompton said. "It may involve a referendum, it may involve multiple public meetings. Whatever happens, our community will have an opportunity to speak to it if it ever finds itself at that stage."

The RMOW is always open to hearing about opportunities like this, and there's something to be said for re-using Whistler's Olympic venues in a new bid, the mayor added.

"2010 was an absolutely incredible time for our community, and delivered a lot for us: Olympic venues, sports venues, Cheakamus Crossing, First Nations partnerships with the Squamish Nation and Lil'wat Nation, accessibility, Lost Lake PassivHaus, enhanced snowmaking—I could go on," he said.

"Whistler is a place that was built on Olympic dreams, so when the idea of another Games comes up, it's exciting, and it's inspiring. But there's a lot of ground to cover before we get to a decision on whether or not we're going to host again."

Having the venues already in place represents "one of the fascinating things" about a potential 2030 bid for Furlong.

"We are actually probably the only city ever in well over 100 years that is actually able to present a plan to the [International Olympic Committee] that doesn't require sport infrastructure improvements or changes or new facilities. We have everything," he said. "That's a pretty formidable starting position for an Olympic bid."

Sapporo, Japan was the first city to officially bid for the 2030 Games, while Salt Lake City, Utah (host of the 2002 Winter Games) and Barcelona, Spain (host of the 1992 Summer Games) have also expressed interest.

The bidding process for Olympic events has changed dramatically since Vancouver won its bid in 2003, Furlong said.

"When we bid, the process went on for several years, it involved multiple countries, there were countries shortlisted for presentations, [and] it was an extremely expensive process," he said.

"One of the goals here will be to bring that process down to Earth, reduce the cost significantly, and I believe that there is a very good possibility that this decision will actually get taken this year."

Furlong served as president and CEO of the Vancouver organizing committee (VANOC), which said the 2010 Games broke even, and cost roughly $4 billion to host.

Provincial spending on infrastructure improvements brought that total to $7.7 billion.

Following Furlong's comments to the Board of Trade, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart called a potential 2030 bid a "fun idea" for the city, but stressed it would be up to provincial and federal governments to make a call on whether to look at a bid and provide necessary funding.

He also said he would want a referendum for residents to vote on the idea if there was a thought of going ahead.

-with files from The Canadian Press

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