Political football, the all-season Olympic sport Last week, after Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard finally called a provincial election, raising the spectre of Quebec separation once again, it occurred to many that politics might hurt Quebec City’s bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. With Dick Pound, the influential Canadian vice president of the International Olympic Committee, having already dismissed Calgary’s bid for the 2010 Games because the Alberta city hosted the Olympics just 12 years ago, it could be deduced that politics had conspired to give Vancouver-Whistler the best chance of winning the three-way race to be Canada’s bid for the 2010 Olympics. In fact, politics permeates the whole Olympic bid process — politics, in this instance, being loosely defined as consideration of factors other than which is the "best" bid. There are 77 Canadian Olympic Association voting delegates who will determine on Nov. 21 which city will be Canada’s official bid for the 2010 Games. That’s nine days before Quebecers go to the poles. For the past couple of weeks bid society members from each city have been meeting those delegates, trying to convince at least 39 of them that theirs is the "best" bid. The Vancouver-Whistler Bid Society says it has concentrated on putting together the best technical bid, although the undefined transportation legacy that is supposed to be part of a successful bid is inherently a political matter. Calgary’s argument is that its bid is best for the athletes, even though the Calgary bid is apparently having trouble getting Alpine Canada to endorse Nakiska as a site for alpine skiing. Quebec City’s case is that Western Canada already has training facilities for winter sports and athletes from Ontario east support a bid that would leave a legacy of speed skating rinks and luge tracks in Eastern Canada. A recent referendum in Quebec City and 45 adjacent municipalities showed more than 77 per cent of voters support hosting the Games. But the decision is in the hands of the 77 voting COA delegates, who include representatives of summer Olympic sports like badminton and swimming. Are they going to vote for the bid they think is best for the winter athletes, or would they look more favourably on a bid which would turn over some facilities to other sports following the Games? Should they consider whether the legacy of facilities is in Eastern or Western Canada? Should they consider things like the transportation legacy associated with the Vancouver-Whistler bid? Do they look at what each bid is supposed to cost Canadian taxpayers? Would Vancouver-Whistler earn support because Whistler has previously lost Olympic bids to Alberta (Banff, for the 1968 Winter Games) and Quebec (Montreal, for the 1976 Summer Games)? Or are they looking only for the bid which is most likely to win IOC approval? The 77 COA delegates make their decision in two weeks. At that point the successful bid city has to start its real campaign, to win IOC delegates’ favour by 2003. There’s also the matter of Toronto bidding for the 2008 Summer Games. Would the IOC award both the 2008 Summer Games and the 2010 Winter Games to Canada? The politics are just starting.


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