Vancouver city council votes to continue with BC 2030 Winter Olympic bid and rejects further call for plebiscite

Vancouver’s city council joined First Nation and municipal partners of the proposed British Columbia 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid by voting 8-2 in favour of continuing to explore the project despite a city staff report urging caution moving forward.

BC 2030 Olympic bid feasibility team address Vancouver City Council July 20, 2022 (City of Vancouver screen capture)

BC 2030 Olympic bid feasibility team address Vancouver City Council July 20, 2022 (City of Vancouver screen capture)

City managers have now been asked to continue to work forward and report back to city council once the bid leadership assembly signals full consent and further information is available.

The Lil̓wat7úl (Líl̓wat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations along with the resort municipality of Whistler, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) addressed Vancouver city councilors Wednesday to pitch their support for the potential BC 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The First Nations expressed dismay and disappointment that the Vancouver city manager’s staff report on the bid, that was released last week but was being reviewed in chambers Wednesday, was not shared and discussed among leadership before it was published. Leaders resented that they were bombarded with media questions before they could properly vet the report and discuss with partners.

Earlier this week a four First Nations, along with Whistler, signaled their commitment to continue with the process.

The staff report reviewed by Vancouver city council Wednesday warned that the city could face “potentially unlimited financial risk” due to lack of indemnity from the provincial government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) president Tricia Smith dismissed that notion explaining “no party will ever be asked for an unlimited guarantee.”

She said “there are no unlimited guarantees in hosting the Olympics,” instead, she said, the parties meet to discuss how to resolve any financial issues that may arise.

Though no details have been revealed for the 2030 Games, the referendum-canceled Calgary 2026 bid was told to expect a financial contribution of CAD $1.2 billion (USD $930 million) in a mix of cash and delivered services from the IOC. The IOC would be on the hook for any cost overrun related to their own deliverables.

For the pandemic-impacted Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Games the IOC worked with the Games organizing committees to reduce hosting requirements in order to manage costs. A set of hosting reforms described by the IOC as the “new norm” in 2018 made significant adjustments, cutting not only operational costs – but also investments needed for infrastructure. By better managing event scheduling and athlete attendance, costs for accommodations and transportation are reduced.

“We’re not asking for a blank cheque,” Smith said.

On Monday the COC released a statement explaining that its published timelines were achievable even after the city manager emphasized “It is the view of staff that the proposed timeline to submit a bid as currently constituted is not achievable” in the published report.

The COC feasibility team hopes to get First Nation stakeholders to back the project in August leading to a multiparty agreement by November and meeting a proposed IOC deadline. But standing in the way are October 15 municipal elections across British Columbia that could change the face, and minds, of Vancouver city council. Only weeks would be available for the council and staff to move forward with important negotiations and decision making.

Vancouver warned not enough time for BC 2030 Olympic bid – but are the timelines real?

Also causing concerns is the upcoming retirement of BC Premier John Horgan who will be leaving office when his replacement is named sometime in the fall. The provincial government is a crucial financial stakeholder in the bid and a change of leadership may result in bid uncertainty. The staff report insisted that Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart write to federal and provincial leadership for clear direction by the middle of August.

The tight time constraints had councilor Pete Fry contemplating a bid to host in 2034 instead.

“We have an opportunity here in 2030,” Smith said adding “we identified British Columbia because the venues [from 2010] exist.”

“We are a candidate that is very well regarded.  The IOC is very interested in the indigenous-led process.

“We are committed to the 2030 prospect because we have identified it as the best way to bring the Games back without a huge investment,” Smith said, elaborating that venues would require more costly upgrades by 2034

“The opportunity is very clear, there will be a lot more competition to secure these Games in 2034 then there is now.”

Salt Lake City in the United States is in the hunt for 2030 but recent reports suggest the Utah capital might instead seek the 2034 edition due to a domestic conflict with the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games being held only 18 months earlier. A bid from Spain dropped put of the running last month due to political issues, but the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) says it will be back in the race for 2034.

Sapporo, the other bid currently in the 2030 race, is ready to move forward with no referendum required.

Meanwhile councilor Colleen Hardwick resurrected her call for an October 15 Vancouver plebiscite to maximize the public engagement she says is required for the bid to move forward. Her April motion for a public vote died on council floor when it didn’t receive a seconder, with fellow councilors concerned about the relationship with First Nations partners.

The same concerns led to city councilors denying Hardwick’s plebiscite request Wednesday, rejecting it by a vote of 10 to 1.

About Robert Livingstone


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.