Following a meeting with International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials Monday, Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume is reportedly building up excitement over a 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid that would require teaming up with an Olympic-class ski hill in another province or country. He’s thinking of mountains in Canada as far away as Alberta and British Columbia, or even Lake Placid, New York.
Quebec City last bid for the 2002 Olympic Games that were won by Salt Lake City when the Canadian city received the fewest votes of four candidates in the running. A campaign to win the national nomination to host the 2010 Games failed when Vancouver was chosen instead.
Labeaume told Le Soleil following the meeting, “Really, I believe in it now. I came here to verify my hypothesis and my understanding is that it’s serious”.
In reality, the concept is far-fetched.
The IOC recently relaxed its rules to allow multi-city and even multi-national events, where necessary and appropriate, as a part of its Agenda 2020 set of reforms that emphasize cost-cutting and sustainability as part of the bid process.
But the application of these rules is more suitable on the European continent where international distances are shorter and borders within the Euro zone are open. The vast distances proposed across North America, and an enforced border if it’s a Canada-U.S. Games, will diminish the Games experience and significantly weaken Quebec’s chances of success.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) would have to approve Quebec’s plans before any bid could go forward – applications will be accepted by the IOC late in 2017.
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said he was flattered by the suggestions that his town, which successfully staged the 1980 and 1932 Winter Games, could be part of Quebec City’s plans. He said he told Labeaum to keep Lake Placid included in his investigation for possible venue use in an Olympic bid.
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) would have to be behind any plans for Lake Placid’s involvement in the bid, and with the organization already fully focused on a Los Angeles 2024 bid set to be decided September 2017, it is unlikely that it will enter into any serious discussions around the proposal in time for the Quebec bid to move forward.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had no comment Tuesday on Labeaume’s proposal.
In Whistler, where the 2010 Olympics were held, there is “a lot of interest” in teaming up with Quebec City, according to Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
She said Labeaume called her a couple of weeks ago to say Quebec City was exploring a bid for the 2026 Games, but has no interest in building a costly sliding centre (for bobsled luge and skeleton) or ski jump, and does not have a mountain high enough to meet the International Ski Federation standard for downhill events.
“We’ve got these facilities, they’re in very good shape, and we would be interested in pursuing this further,” Wilhelm-Morden said.
“…at the end of the day, a compact bid will always be attractive, for the athletes, for the International Federations, for the National Olympic Committees, and therefore for many voters.” – Swiss Olympic
Labeaume’s enthusiasm is partly fueled by the lack of bidders for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games when Beijing narrowly defeated Almaty as the only two remaining cities in the race after four European candidates dropped out for political and economic reasons. But with the delivery of Agenda 2020, that mood may be changing.
For 2026 Almaty could be back in the race, potentially along with Norway after Oslo was the last to pull out of the 2022 race. There is also interest from Sweden and Switzerland.
Switzerland recently launched a domestic campaign to choose its city to bid for the Games. In documents released by Swiss Olympic designed to brief interested cities, the National Olympic Committee didn’t put much faith in the viability of multi-city bids, despite the IOC’s new acceptance of the concept.
It reported “…at the end of the day, a compact bid will always be attractive, for the athletes, for the International Federations, for the National Olympic Committees, and therefore for many voters. A compact bid means a stronger Olympic experience for everybody involved.”
Turin’s 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Italy was the last to be staged in central Europe, in 2026 that will have been a twenty-year absence, the longest the continent has been without the event. There will be a significant emphasis to bring the Games back to Europe where a large proportion of the voting IOC members are based.
Quebec certainly has an uphill battle if it hopes to host the Winter Games in 2026, perhaps even higher than those in Lake Placid or Whistler.
The IOC is expected to elect the 2026 host city in 2019.