Ontario Awaits Federal Decision On Supporting A 2015 Pan Am Bid

The Canadian Press (CP) reports that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he’s heard nothing from the federal government about support for a bid by the province of Ontario for the 2015 Pan Am Games, and decision time is coming.

According to CP, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed interested in the idea last month but the Premier has heard nothing since.

McGuinty said, “I presented our case. I know he’s on it. He’s engaged. He said he was going to look into it. He seemed quite receptive to the idea but has made no commitment to support it”.

Chris Rudge, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s (COC) chief executive officer said, “it’s very urgent” that a decision be made before the Olympic Games begin in Beijing next month”, reports the Toronto Star. “We need to do some soft lobbying of decision-makers (from the Pan American Sports Organization) in Beijing. We’re already working on tentative plans for a reception of some kind”.

The Star reports Rudge wouldn’t comment on a report that COC president Michael Chambers had written to Prime Minister Harper for a comment on federal funding.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister’s director of communications confirmed the conversation between Harper and McGuinty, but said the federal government is still evaluating the proposal. Kory Teneykce said the issue is complex, involves three levels of government, and is potentially costly to taxpayers. “There are fairly firm processes around how bids and money for games or international cultural events or these sorts of things are approved. We’re pretty early in the process to be actually talking about money or making a federal commitment dollar-wise”.

Teneycke said of particular concern is the potential for “large cost overruns” on the multibillion-dollar proposal, reports CP.

The Games being hosted in the province would cost about $1.8 billion and the federal government would have to chip in about one third of the cost.

McGuinty says hosting the Pan Am Games, while not of Olympic calibre, would still be a huge boost to the region’s sports infrastructure. He said he wants to help the province “come of age” when it comes to amateur sports, and the Pan Am Games would be a “good building block” towards that goal.

According to CP, McGuinty said he’s more than prepared to travel in support of pitching the Toronto area to the selection committee, but said he needs answers from the federal government, adding, “we need a decision pretty soon”.

He is prepared to make a short visit to the Beijing Games to push the bid to international sports officials, said the Star.

Although the formal bid deadline is January 31, 2009, the Pan American Sports Organization has said it wants informal presentations in October.