Organizers in Vancouver, Whistler and Four First Nations in British Columbia, Canada Tuesday unveiled a draft hosting concept for the proposed 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Billed as an important milestone that moves the project from the Feasibility to Engagement Phase, the bid leadership provided some much needed detail behind a project that has so far been developed in secrecy. But officials have stressed that the 24-page proposed plan is still far from an official bid that would need to be submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) before it can be considered a candidate to host the Games. Critical details are still missing from plans, including financial figures that are now promised to be delivered in July.
The ‘2030 Feasibility Team’ has so far distanced itself from any language or branding that frames the concept of a bid, instead naming the current project ‘Games Engagement’ that is backed by a newly-launched website at gamesengagement.ca. However it is believed that if the project is approved and sent to the IOC, it would be dubbed ‘BC 2030’ to represent a regional Games across British Columbia.
First Nations leaders from Lil̓wat7úl (Líl̓wat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) emphasized that they have invited the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) to deliver the feasibility study, and it will be up the Nations to make an assessment and decide whether they will move forward with the first Indigenous-led bid in Olympic history.
According to the timeline released by the feasibility team Tuesday, the current Engagement Phase would run until December, coinciding with when the IOC is expected to name its preferred candidates that will be considered for the host election. The following Bidding Phase from December to April 2023 would then match the IOC’s Targeted Dialogue Phase when one or more cities would undergo due diligence before getting IOC Executive Committee approval and facing a membership vote. Last month IOC officials said that an all-members Session scheduled for Mumbai, India next May 30 could be the target for the host election.
“There’s a lot of work to do, and we have heard that a lot today,” Andrew Baker, COC Vice President told GamesBids.com when asked about the tight timelines ahead of the December decision deadline.
Baker and his team refused to narrow down a date as to when the final go-no go decision would be made for a bid, other than to confirm it would be before the December 7 IOC Executive Board meeting when preferred candidates will likely be named by the IOC. Former hosts Sapporo in Japan and Salt Lake City in the United States are also in the race, and both have confirmed intentions to bid. A project from Barcelona in Spain remains in a self-imposed hiatus until the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) can get an agreement from partners over venue distribution.
But it seems the COC and its partners are far from the point when they can get all partners to sign an agreement. With four First Nations, at least two municipalities, the COC, the Province of Alberta, the Federal Government and all of their constituents as stakeholders, any joint agreement could be the most complex in Olympic history.
Earlier this year a motion to hold a plebiscite died on the Vancouver City Council floor after the Mayor claimed it would be in violation of a Memorandum of Understanding signed with partner First Nations. Reports circulated earlier this week that the COC had advised partners that the bid would be rejected by the IOC if such a vote were to move forward.
When asked for clarification, Baker told GamesBids.com during a press briefing that the information in the report was outdated.
He said “The COC and the [Canadian Paralympic Committee] are responsible, ultimately for helping advise partners on the international process.
“And we did early on, prior to understanding or to knowing within the flexible process when a targeted dialogue process may be opened, highlighted the fact that a potential plebiscite that government support was contingent on could impact our invitation to targeted dialogue should the IOC be ready to invite candidates in prior to when a plebiscite would take place.
“So that was a message that we had to deliver.
“In the current context ultimately we would be looking to have support from all partners by December now that has been confirmed there is intent [by the IOC] to invite partners into targeted dialog by December.”
In short, had a plebiscite been held after a B.C. bid was invited into targeted dialogue, it would have been rejected by the IOC. It was only last month that the IOC confirmed such an invitation would not be made until December, well after the originally proposed October 15 plebiscite date.
It appears a referendum could be back on the table.
While project leadership would not confirm a position on a possible vote, Indigenous Partnership lead Tewanee Joseph insisted all stakeholders would get a voice before moving forward, including residents of partner municipalities.
Sapporo and Salt Lake City have already confirmed that they will not hold a public vote over their bids, but the Barcelona project had already scheduled a July 24 referendum in Spain that was later postponed after the project collapsed.
According to plans, a 2030 Olympic Winter Games in B.C. would run from February 8 to 24. The Paralympic Games would follow from March 8 to 17. The competition venue footprint would be similar to that of the 2010 Games with the addition of snowboard and freestyle skiing events at Sun Peaks Ski Resort near Kamloops.
Opening and closing ceremonies would be held at BC Place Stadium and other familiar venues from 2010 in Vancouver and Whistler would used once again.
Three Olympic Villages would be constructed and located near each of the Whistler, Vancouver and Sun Peaks clusters. These would be located on land owned by First Nations.
“This is an important step in our consideration of a potential Indigenous-led bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Squamish Nation Spokesperson Wilson Williams said in a statement.
“Now it is time to speak to our communities, and indeed the Canadian public, as we seek feedback on the more detailed proposal. In keeping with the traditions of our Nations, the communities will have an opportunity to add their voice to the discussion and help the Leadership Assembly as we move closer to a decision.”
This week a Salt Lake City bid delegation has traveled to IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to have its first in-person meeting with officials. Olympic Champion Skier Lindsey Vonn has joined the group as a high-profile ambassador for that bid. Next week all interested bidders have been invited to join a virtual Beijing 2022 Winter Games debrief to be held in Milan, Italy.
A COC spokesperson said that the proposed B.C. bid has no immediate plans to travel.