British Columbia

B.C. government says it won't support 2030 Winter Olympics bid

The province announced Thursday it will not support a potential bid for the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, a decision that has disappointed the First Nations who were hoping to host the games.

Minister says cost of bid led by several First Nations, Vancouver and Whistler, amounts to billions

The Olympic Rings sculpture in Whistler, pictured in February 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The B.C. government announced Thursday that it would not be supporting a bid to bring the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games back to the province, where four First Nations were hoping to host them.

The province had been reviewing the Indigenous-led bid for more than a year but said in a statement it was worried that billions of dollars in direct costs would jeopardize its "ability to address pressures facing British Columbians right now."

The 2030 bid is being led by the Lil̓wat7úl (Líl̓wat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations, in addition to the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the municipalities of Vancouver and Whistler.

"Government had to take a look at that bid and weigh it," said Lisa Beare, the minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, speaking at the provincial legislature in Victoria, B.C.

"[We had to weigh] its costs, its risks, its potential benefits against government priorities like health care, like public safety, investing in the cost of living," she continued.

Beare said the province understands the prospect of hosting another Olympic Games was exciting for athletes and sports fans but pointed to prior commitments to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2025 Invictus Games she says will still bring the international spotlight to B.C.

"Ultimately, we came to the decision to not support the 2030 bid at this time."

Musqueam chief, federal sports minister weigh in

"It would've been nice to sit down with all parties involved ... before they make their conclusion," Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

The Lil̓wat7úl (Líl̓wat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations said they'll be holding a "discussion around the status of bringing the Games back" at 11 a.m. Friday at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in downtown Vancouver, alongside members of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees.

Sparrow says the four First Nations were excited by the prospect of hosting the first Indigenous-led games, especially with the recent commitment by the City of Vancouver to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"We'll have to wait and see where this goes from here," Sparrow said. "But for me, this squashes it."

Canada's Minister for Sport, Pascale St-Onge, told CBC in a statement that she respects B.C.'s decision but said the bid could have set "a groundbreaking precedent for future games in terms of reconciliation, sustainability and inclusivity."

Chris Point, left, and Alec Dan, right, of the Musqueam Indian Band perform a ceremonial song during a joint news conference in June between the COC, the four host First Nations and the cities of Vancouver and Whistler. (Jeff Vinnick/The Canadian Press)

St-Onge said the federal government will continue to work with the host nations, the province, Vancouver and Whistler on other sporting opportunities.

"We will also continue to look for other ways of fulfilling our shared commitments under Calls to Action 87-91 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

Disappointment from all parties

In separate statements to CBC, Vancouver and Whistler officials both said the news was disappointing.

"The [Resort Municipality of Whistler] entered into this process in good faith, believing it was a model for reconciliation in action," said Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton. 

"We are disappointed it has ended without the opportunity for the kind of fulsome, all-party analysis we have looked forward to completing."

In its statement, the City of Vancouver said it "understands and acknowledges the disappointment expressed at this news, especially given the historic element this bid would have as the first ever Nations'-led Olympic bid."

Both municipalities said they enjoyed working with the Indigenous leaders and communities that were involved and plan to maintain those partnerships and collaborate on other projects going forward.

The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee also issued a statement, saying they were informed of the decision and were taking time to process the information Thursday.

"The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), working under the leadership of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, believes in the strengths of this Indigenous-led process to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games back to the region," they said.

The COC and CPC said they will respond to B.C.'s decision to back out at the news conference alongside the four host nations on Friday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josh Grant is a CBC News reporter based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He previously worked for CBC in Montreal and Quebec City and for the Nation magazine serving the Cree communities of Northern Quebec. You can reach him at josh.grant@cbc.ca.

With files from Meera Bains and Joel Ballard

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