While the torch relay has been underway for more than 100-days, the real journey to Vancouver in 2010 is well over 40-years old.
Vancouver’s interest in hosting these Games goes back at least as far as the 1960’s when the city’s first Vancouver-Garibaldi application was made to the International Olympic Committee for the 1976 Games. That bid was lost to Denver, USA and Vancouver was also behind Sion, Switzerland and Tempere, Finland to finish dead last. But as it turns out, none of these four cities ever hosted – Denver citizens rejected the burden of hosting the Games and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave the Games to Innsbruck, Austria.
A few years later Calgary showed up on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s (COC) radar and that city became Canada’s choice, and eventually the IOC’s choice to hold the 1988 Winter Games.
Then in the 1990’s, after Vancouver successfully hosted the 1986 World Expo and the Calgary Games were in the past – an Olympic Games again became an option. At the time, the COC was focussing its efforts on a Summer Games. Toronto had lost a bid for the 1996 Games and was pursuing a bid for the 2008 Games. A Toronto victory would prevent Vancovuer from pursuing any Winter Games for the foreseeable future.
But Beijing was a formidable opponent for Toronto and easily won the right to host the 2008 Games leaving the door wide open for a Vancouver bid.
Vancouver won the domestic nomination by defeating Calgary and Quebec City in a competitive campaign and it was now ready to compete internationally. The Canadian city faced-off against seven other nations – Sarajevo Boznia-Herzegovina, Jaca Spain and Harbin China failed to make the short-list and were eliminated early. Then Berne, Switzerland pulled out of the race after a referendum failed to gain public support.
Then Vancouver had to struggle with waning public support at home and the Mayor made the controversial choice of holding an Olympic Games Plebiscite mid-campaign. Vancouverites backed the bid with 64% support and the bid was able to continue. Shortly after – the bid team hosted IOC evaluators for a four-day site visit that was widely considered to be successful.
But when an IOC evaluation report was later released, it was Salzburg, Austria that seemed to have the lead. PyeongChang, South Korea remained an outsider in what was considered a two-city race. Vancouver was criticized for its transportation plan – “transport strategies will require further development”, the IOC wrote.
The three finalists headed to the final vote in Prague, Czech Republic – July 2, 2003 at the IOC’s 115th session. Cities made final important presentations to voting IOC members.
A shocking first ballot revealed that Salzburg had been eliminated from the race first having received the least number of votes – but since there was no majority a final ballot would be required to declare a winner. But what wasn’t known immediately was how close PyeongChang was from winning the race outright on the first ballot, which would have sent Vancouver packing. PyeongChang had received 51 of the votes – only three shy of the majority required. Vancouver earned 40 and Salzburg 16.
But the final ballot revealed a startling comeback victory for Vancouver, defeating PyeongChang 56-53 – and earning them the right to host the Olympic Games.
Salzburg and PyeongChang went on to bid again for the 2014 Games – but their fates were almost identical when they lost to upstart Sochi, Russia. PyeongChang is among three bidders for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games to be decided in 2011, but Salzburg did not enter the race.
The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be underway at the Opening Ceremonies Friday evening.