Four First Nation leaders and Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) president Tricia Smith blasted the British Columbia provincial government Friday for snubbing the team exploring the Vancouver 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid, leading to the project’s demise.
It was to be the first-ever indigenous-led Olympics.
“Let’s get together,” Smith implored the provincial government and Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Lisa Beare who on Thursday announced that British Columbia would not support the Games.
“We have a new mayor, a new premiere – let’s get together in a room and talk about this, talk about the possibilities before the page is turned,” she said, insisting the decision was premature.
Chief Jen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said the bid team learned last Friday (Oct. 21) that the Province was planning to pass on the bid, but official word wasn’t delivered until Monday. During his week First Nations were knocking at the province’s door hoping to discuss and clarify plans, but there was no answer.
“We are still waiting on that formal response that went back in inviting [the province] to meet with the Nations as soon as we can to have that dialogue, but we haven’t received any response over the past couple of days,” Councillor Wilson Williams of Squamish Nation told GamesBids.com.
The snub disappointed First Nations leaders, causing them to question British Columbia’s commitment to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation mandate.
“For our nation, this is 10 steps backwards in reconciliation,” Chief Thomas said.
“We were asked by the province to share why we want the Olympics, and we didn’t get the opportunity.”
“I’m truly disheartened today,” Councillor Williams said.
“A wall has been put up against us for an indigenous led Olympic Games.
“We didn’t come to the table asking for a blank cheque. We were given terms of ‘this isn’t the right time’. When will be the right time for indigenous people to be at the forefront of this so-called spirit of reconciliation?”
Williams recalled his disappointment at the Nations’ token recognition as part of winning bids for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2025 Invictus Games.
“We were not at the tables,” he said.
Beare abruptly ended the bid over cost concerns, explaining that the Province has little appetite for the CAD $1.2 billion (USD $882 million) expenditure with a further CAD $1 billion (USD $735 million) risk.
Smith said these preliminary numbers were in a document requested by the Province, and required further framing that would come through dialogue.
“We are at the stage now where we say ‘here is our best guess at where we are’. Now we want to get the Province and the federal government in a room along with the partners here to say ‘what could work, what doesn’t work for you, what can work?’
“We haven’t had a chance to have that conversation yet. I think there has to be some clarification on the numbers – you have to look at the numbers and also look at the benefits.”
Smith, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that only 17 percent of the price tag would come from BC with 52 percent provided by the private sector including a contribution from the IOC.
Without provincial support – a commitment necessary to ensure federal funds – the bid cannot move forward.
But the Nations remain hopeful.
Councillor Williams said they will wait for the Province to respond, adding “the omission of support from the governments would kill the bid, but we’re saying we’re still here.”
Smith believes losing the BC 2030 bid will be a squandered opportunity for Canada.
“We certainly think it’s beneficial to bring the Games to Canada,” she said.
“We have an amazing opportunity in 2030 because there would be no future opportunity for Winter Games until 2034 when I imagine there would be a lot more people in the competition, we have already heard of a few of them.
“In 2030 I think we have a very good chance, an excellent chance of being awarded these Games.”
Earlier this month Alberta’s Minister of Culture Ron Orr mused about a renewed Calgary Olympic bid, hinting that a small group of people were already at work on the project. But with the IOC expected to narrow down the list of candidates as early as December or as late as the Spring, there is little time for the 1988 host city to ramp up.
Calgary’s bid for the 2026 Winter Games was defeated in a plebiscite when over 56 percent voted against it.
Sapporo in Japan is the only remaining 2030 bid in the race, but the scandal ridden Tokyo 2020 Games has cast a shadow on the campaign from Hokkaido Province and it may be difficult for the project to cross the finish line.
Salt Lake City in the United States has said it is focused on a 2034 bid, but will change plans to accommodate the earlier date if the IOC asks.
The IOC is expected to elect the 2030 Winter Games host at its Session in October 2023.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com 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.