Toronto Mayor John Tory says he's not saying no to an Olympic bid forever, but it won't happen in 2024.
Tory — as expected — announced Tuesday morning that Toronto will not submit a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. But there's no reason Canada's largest city can't explore making a future bid when the timing makes more sense, he added.
"I believe that one day Toronto will be a great venue for the Olympic Games, but not in 2024," said Tory at a news conference held at Nathan Phillips Square outside city hall. "Time was against us in building the kind of support you have to have from the community in order for this to work.
"I am not saying no to the Olympics. I am saying not this time."
The timing Tory referred to was caused in part by a sudden, and somewhat unexpected, groundswell of support for an Olympic bid that grew during Toronto's successful hosting of this summer's Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.
Those games wrapped in mid-August, leaving little time to muster support and answer all the questions about funding and infrastructure in time for today's deadline to submit a letter announcing Toronto's intention to bid.
Tory also admitted that assembling support from senior governments was complicated with the country in the midst of a federal election.
"We were quite a bit behind," said Tory. "No one was rushing forward with their chequebooks"
Tory said he will create a panel to advise Toronto on bidding for future major events, including another summer or winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup or a world expo.
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Tory said he consulted widely before making his decision to not submit a bid and said the Pan Am success proves Toronto can host other major events.
Marcel Aubut, president of Canadian Olympic Committee, said he accepts Tory's decision.
"We remain optimistic Toronto could and should host the Olympic Games in the future," he said in a statement issued moments after Tory's news conference.
"We realize that time was too short for such a detailed project to get the necessary support in just a few weeks following the successful Pan Am Games," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "The International Olympic Committee highly appreciates what Toronto has done as it continues to work on a future candidacy."
Some bid supporters were hoping a winning bid could help Toronto access funding to address the city's significant infrastructure and transit needs.
Tory, however, said the Games shouldn't be used as a tool to loosen funding for things the city needs.
"We have to invest in making sure this city works for everyone," he said. "Making that investment happen shouldn't be contingent on a vote of the International Olympic Committee. It should happen because it is the right thing to do."
Mayor made 'the right call'
Left-leaning Coun. Gord Perks said Tory made the right decision, given the city's current struggles to raise money for transit, housing and infrastructure improvements, which he says are needed now.
"The mayor made the right call," Perks told CBC News. "The city has some pretty big challenges right now. Our first duty is to meet those problems, not put on a spectacle for somebody else."
Coun. Gary Crawford, the mayor's budget chair, said he'd love to see Toronto host an Olympics someday but said holding off for now is a "prudent decision" given the uncertainties, particularly around cost.
"We're not ready yet," said Crawford. "And the timeline didn't allow for [Tory] to gather the right kind of information. The partnerships, the funding, the numbers need to be critical. The IOC wants to see a city that really wants it and it wasn't there at this time."
Toronto unsuccessfully bid for the 1996 and 2008 Summer Olympics, and Tory has said he didn't want to lead a third failed attempt.
Among cities in line to try to host the 2024 Games are:
- Los Angeles.
The winner will be selected in 2017.
A municipal study previously estimated bidding alone would have cost between $50 million and $60 million, and hosting the Games would cost between $3.3 billion and $7 billion.
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