Toronto 2024 Olympic bid: 6th attempt to host Olympics could be 'a challenge'

While the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee said it would back a Toronto Olympic bid, the decision is up to a number of different stakeholders who so far remain undecided, including Toronto Mayor John Tory.

Canada's largest city failed in previous bids and would need 'widespread popular support' this time

Fireworks illuminate the CN tower during Pan Am Toronto 2015 opening ceremony in Toronto. The president of the Canadian Olympic Committee confirmed on Saturday that the office would back a Toronto bid for the 2024 Olympics. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The president of the Canadian Olympic Committee confirmed on Saturday that the office would back a Toronto bid for the 2024 Olympics, checking off one bullet point in a long list of requirements needed to secure the rights to the Games. 

While Marcel Aubut said to CBC News that he will "absolutely lead and advocate with the whole power of my office that Toronto becomes the host city for 2024 Olympic Games," the decision is up to a number of different stakeholders who so far remain undecided, including Toronto Mayor John Tory.

"We've got to get through these [Pan Am] Games," Tory said during an interview on CBC News Network on Sunday.

"Then I think it's time for a really thoughtful reflection on this and not some kind of, sort of, knee-jerk reaction to what have been a very successful Games and say, 'Yeah, let's do this next thing,'" he said.

"The bottom line, though, is no decision has been taken. No discussion's really even begun."

Meanwhile, the federal government, which provided significant investment for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, said only that it is aware of "Aubut's intention to lead and advocate for Toronto."
People make their way towards the CN Tower and Rogers Centre to see the opening ceremony of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games on July 10. A Toronto bid for the 2024 Olympics could be a challenge, according to a member of two previous bid teams. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

"We have not received any formal proposals from the organizing committee, city of Toronto or the province, but would review them on the merits if we did," Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

Bruce Kidd, a professor at the University of Toronto who's served on Toronto's last two Olympic bid committees, said the city needs to come up with a good plan that addresses sport and physical activity development, environmental sustainability, city and region building. 

Toronto also needs to get buy-in from the federal and provincial governments, as well as widespread popular support, he said. 

"If we don't have that, our bid's not going to go very far," he said in an interview with CBC News. 

And time's running out. Sept. 15 is the deadline for cities interested in the 2024 Summer Games to register their intention to host with the International Olympic Committee.

"Given the way that bids in the last few years, even the last decade, [have] attracted opposition in liberal democratic countries, the IOC is going to insist upon some clear measure of support — not just a council voting yes — but some demonstration of popular support," Kidd said.

"And to get that together in a few months is going to be a challenge."

If a bid does get pushed through, it would be Toronto's sixth time vying for the chance to host an Olympic Games.

Here's what happened the previous five times.


Toronto was dropped from the list of contenders vying to host the 1960 Summer Olympics even though Canada was the first country to submit a formal bid.

According to a Globe and Mail report from April 1955, Toronto had missed a deadline to complete a questionnaire from the International Olympic Association.

But some obstacles to holding the Olympics included a lack of facilities in the city, including an Olympic stadium. The Canadian National Exhibition grandstand was proposed as a venue for the games, but capacity at the time was only 21,000 people (the IOC demanded capacity for at least 75,000).

Another challenge was providing accommodation for the tens of thousands of expected visitors and athletes to Toronto.

Interestingly, there were suggestions that Toronto officials didn't do enough "behind-the-scenes" manoeuvring to influence IOC members. Reports at the time said Canada's representative on the IOC suggested that "a very nice gesture" would be to send IOC members a souvenir lighter with the City of Toronto crest on it with future bids.

The winning city was Rome. The other top bidders were Budapest, Hungary; Lausanne, Switzerland; Detroit, Brussels and Tokyo.


The failed 1960 Games bid spurred Toronto to push ahead for 1964 Games (although some officials said at the time that Toronto was really gunning for the 1964 Olympics to begin with).

However, the second bid barely made Toronto news at the time and didn't pan out. Tokyo ended up securing the rights to the 1964 Games.

"Toronto never fully complied with the application processes to host the 1960 Olympic Games and their 1964 bid did not garner much attention," wrote Virginia Tech professor Robert Oliver in an academic report into Toronto's Olympic ambitions.

"These early bid efforts did reveal a real unease over the lack of sporting infrastructure (especially those of international standards) in the city and the status of the waterfront," Oliver wrote.


The Olympic torch is ignited during the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games opening ceremony. (Canadian Press)

Toronto's proposal for the 1976 Summer Olympics included plans for a 80,000-100,000-seat Olympic stadium and an Olympic village to house up to 8,000 athletes in the Lake Ontario waterfront area.

"The need for waterfront development and new sport infrastructure remained central to Toronto's interest in the 1976 Olympic Games," Oliver wrote in his report, adding that the mayor of Metropolitan Toronto at the time linked waterfront development to the city's Olympic bid.

Toronto was unable to convince the Canadian Olympic Association that it was worthy, and the association ended up backing Montreal's bid.

Montreal went on to secure the rights to the 1976 Games and Toronto would stop bidding for the Olympics for the next two decades.


The Olympic rings up the street from Turner Field, which was originally the 85,000-seat main stadium for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. (David Goldman/AP)

The waterfront again played a huge role in Toronto's 1996 Olympic bid.

The bid team, wrote Oliver, argued that "the resources marshalled by the Olympic Games would allow Toronto to accomplish three decades of planning in eight years."

However, according to Kidd, social activist group Bread Not Circuses "depending on who you talked to, complicated the bid." The group argued that the money Toronto was spending on the bid could be better spent on housing.

"It was a long and complicated story," Kidd said. "We learned a lot from that experience. We did some terrific things but we didn't win."

Toronto lost the bid to Atlanta.


Fireworks explode during the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Bird's Nest in August 2008. Beijing was the favourite going into the competition for the rights to the 2008 Games. (Claro Cortes/Reuters)

The most recent bid focused the Olympic events on a compact area along Toronto's waterfront. The Olympic village itself would have been built on reclaimed industrial areas, and the city's plans called for construction of a new rapid transit network connecting the venues.

Other contenders were: Beijing; Buenos Aires; Cairo; Istanbul; Paris; Osaka, Japan; and Seville, Spain.

"There were a few minuses but for the most part as a plan I think it was a highly regarded bid both domestically and internationally," Kidd said.

"We were just up against the most populous country in the world, a rising power that had never had the Olympics before."

Beijing, the favourite entering the competition, won the rights for the 2008 Olympics.


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