Toronto 2024 Olympic Bid Gets Traction as City Revels in Pan Am Games

Reporting from the Pan Am / Para Pan Am Athletics Stadium in Toronto, Canada – Toronto Mayor John Tory met Wednesday with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn in the midst of the Pan Am Games, and part of the discussion the Mayor said, was an Olympic bid.

Canadian Gymnast Ellie Black Performs at Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games (GamesBids Photo)
Canadian Gymnast Ellie Black Performs at Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games (GamesBids Photo)

Prior to the start of the Games Tory along with Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) President Marcel Aubut and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach recognized the opportunity to bid for the Olympic Games but each of them said that a successful outcome of the Pan Am Games would be key in order to move forward.

Heading into the Games, the dialogue on the street centered around the dread of gridlock caused by controversial HOV lanes, and poor ticket sales.  Now 12 days into the Games all the talk is about the Canadian gold rush, whether Kanye West is a suitable headliner for the closing ceremony, and where tickets can be bought.  Indeed, since the opening ceremony July 10 more than 300,000 tickets have been sold helping the overall total eclipse 1 million.

Last week host broadcaster CBC stepped up national coverage of the Games simply due to overwhelming demand.  Twelve hours were added to the television schedule and even more was added to the online live streaming calendar.  The network has also received criticism for not broadcasting some key events live, such as the women’s gold medal match Monday evening when boxing and rhythmic gymnastics were aired instead.  Simply put – CBC hadn’t planned on an interest level this high.

A giant 3D neon-lit “Toronto” sign outside city hall has become the popular Games selfie background and the Mayor has promised to tour it around the city after the cauldron flame is extinguished.

Canadians have embraced these Games – the most successful ever for Canada’s athletes.  With 41 countries represented in 36 sports, it’s also the largest such event in Canadian history.

Canada has enjoyed success at the Cisco Milton Velodrome (GamesBids Photo)
Canada has enjoyed success at the Cisco Milton Velodrome (GamesBids Photo)

The Pan Am Games can be credited for many new sport facilities across the region including a state-of-the-art velodrome, aquatic centre and athletics stadium – as well as a long awaited rail link from the airport to the downtown core.

“There’s a whole variety of international events and sporting competitions that we’re now in a position to host which I think is good for Toronto, good for Ontario and good for Canada,” Mayor Tory told reporters Wednesday.

“And the Olympics is one of those, obviously, of which there is great discussion.”

An IOC source said that the Mayor’s office had discussions about an Olympic bid with IOC President Bach ahead of the Pan Am Games.

Boston, Budapest, Hamburg, Paris and Rome have already declared their candidacies ahead of the September 15 IOC deadline with Baku, Azerbaijan expecting to enter the race after successfully hosting the first European Games earlier in the summer.  If Toronto hopes to be in the running, a preliminary plan needs to be put together with the COC within two months.  The costs of implementing a two-year Summer Olympic Games bid campaign typically runs from (USD) $50 million to $100 million.

Toronto could put the brakes on and instead bid for the 2028 Olympics, but at the risk of losing momentum, and interest.  The city has made it to the ballot stage in two previous Olympic bids – for 1996 and 2008 – but has never hosted.  Prior bids never made it past the domestic stage, coming behind Montreal that eventually hosted in 1976.

Rio de Janeiro leveraged its successful hosting of the 2007 Pan Am Games to immediately bid for, and win the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Tory has delayed any final decision until after the Parapan Am Games that are set to conclude August 15.

“I guess everything’s on the table until you take it off the table,” he said.

The IOC will elect the host city for the 2024 Games in 2017 at its session in Lima, Peru.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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