Vancouver, Whistler and First Nations to explore feasibility of 2030 Olympics bid

Vancouver and Whistler city officials along with First Nations representatives have announced the formation of a partnership that will explore the feasibility of making a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.

Current front-runner to host Winter Games is northern Japanese city of Sapporo

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver in 2020. The city, along with Whistler and First Nations, is expected to explore a bid to host the 2030 Winter Games. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Vancouver and Whistler city officials along with four First Nations representatives have announced the formation of a partnership that will explore the feasibility of making a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.

At an announcement Friday, the Lil̓wat7úl (Líl̓wat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations announced they have jointly entered into a memorandum of understanding with the City of Vancouver and the Resort Municipality of Whistler to begin the process. 

Vancouver and Whistler previously hosted the Winter Games in 2010.

"We have been at this place before in the 2010 Olympics where we showcased our presence and our cultures respectively," said Lilwat Chief Dean Nelson. "The difference between 2010 [and 2030] is that we were an invitee and today we are a big part of the exploratory group to explore a bid for the 2030 Olympics."

Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart noted that it is the four First Nations who are leading the potential bid, not the two municipalities.

"Four inviting two, not two inviting four," he said.

"Today is a historic day but there is a long way to go. We are only at the exploratory phase. But no matter what is decided by the Indigenous peoples represented here today, Vancouver will continue to walk this different and unfamiliar path as we continue to put reconciliation into action."

Any potential bid would still need approval from Vancouver's city council, Stewart said.

The group will now work with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee to assess the feasibility of making a bid. Factors that will be considered during the process include costs and benefits for the communities involved.

"This announcement fully aligns with our process and our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action and is an important first step toward exploring the feasibility of bringing the Olympic and Paralympic Games back to the region," said Tricia Smith, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

A decision on whether to submit a formal bid to the International Olympic Committee is expected in the fall of 2022.

"Today we think of the canoe leaving the shore," Stewart said.

The 2010 Games cost about $4 billion, including an expansion of the Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler. The organizing committee has said the Games broke even financially.

Calgary considered hosting the 2026 Winter Games at an estimated cost of $5.1 billion. The decision went to a public vote in 2018, with 56 per cent of those who voted saying 'no' to putting in a bid.

While costs for the 2030 Games will be discussed during the feasibility study, Stewart said he's talked to both the federal and provincial ministers of sport and heard positive reaction to the bid.

He also noted that much of the infrastructure from the 2010 is still in use today. Which facilities could once again be used to stage Olympic events will be considered during the feasibility study.

Chief Jen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said the 2010 events had a positive impact on her nation. 

"We were considered small back then, and now our relationships have really built and become stronger. We are a really big part of the city," said Thomas on CBC's On The Coast.  

"It really brought out the pride in our members. I've never seen so much pride in our community as then."

In a statement, Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow said the opportunity for an Indigenous-led games would be a unique one.

"By exploring the possibility of bringing the Games back to our territories, we have an opportunity to create a new Olympic legacy that is grounded in our unique Indigenous perspectives — an approach that should be considered for all future Games."

The northern Japanese city of Sapporo is a current front-runner to land the 2030 Games. The International Olympic Committee has not indicated when it will pick a host city.

Team Canada won 26 medals in 2010 to rank third among countries.

Aside from 2030, the IOC has selected other Olympic hosts through 2032.

The 2022 Beijing Games will begin Feb. 4. After that it'll be Paris in 2024, Milan-Cortina, Italy in 2026, Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane, Australia in 2032.

With files from CBC's On The Coast and The Associated Press

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