Vancouver warned of ‘potentially unlimited financial risks’ of Olympics


Opinion: This chaotic process began with wishful thinking on the anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics, fueled by the enthusiasm of 2020 Winter Olympics President John Furlong, former staff and volunteers.

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A potential Vancouver bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics could be dead unless the Canadian Olympic Committee’s feasibility team can convince city councilors otherwise at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

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This is all due to a City staff report prepared for the Policy and Strategic Priorities Committee.

Perhaps the most damning line is this: “Staff are of the view that the proposed time frame for submitting a bid as presently constituted is not feasible.”

Or it could be this: “As the eventual funding and compensation model for the 2030 Winter Games has yet to be determined, staff cannot, at the time of writing this report. , provide the Council with even an order of magnitude estimate of the financial implications of hosting the Games.

But these are far from the only ones in a searing 46-page report that describes a chaotic process long in enthusiasm and a proposal sorely lacking in the most essential details.

The dream that the Canadian Olympic Committee hopes to present to the International Olympic Committee in November is that of an Indigenous-led Games that will advance the national, provincial and municipal project of reconciliation with First Nations.

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But if Mayor Kennedy Stewart and council accept the city manager’s advice not to approve the proposal by the August deadline set by the feasibility team, the $4 billion ‘reconciliation’ offer will not be able to not go ahead.

Why? Because one of the hallmarks of the Indigenous-led Leadership Assembly for Bid is that if one partner is missing, they all are.

In a statement, feasibility team spokesman Chris Dornan said the team believes it is possible to provide all necessary information to the four host First Nations, Vancouver and Whistler, so that they make informed decisions to approve the proposal and meet the deadlines set by the International Olympic Committee.

But for the board, it’s a gamble. If he approves the candidacy without answering all the questions in the report so that the feasibility team can start a “focused dialogue” with the IOC in October, voters could punish them at the polls on October 15.

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Then there’s also the possibility that a newly elected council – which won’t be sworn in until November – might want to rescind the endorsement, or at the very least take the time to study it, which sets the deadline for submitting. the final proposal to The IOC in Danger.

And without the support of all members of the Leadership Assembly, the province will not accept any funding. And without federal and provincial funding, the report says the city would have “potentially unlimited financial risk.”

The report notes that the Olympics follow five World Cup soccer matches in 2026 estimated to cost $290 million (including the city’s commitment to hold a 34-day festival to celebrate) , the 2025 Invictus Games that British Columbia and Canada have committed $30 million to, and whatever costs may be associated with Vancouver hosting the 2023 Laver Cup tennis tournament.

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And the report’s list of what is not known is long.

There is no indication of what benefits taxpayers in Vancouver and British Columbia – reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, a housing crisis, rising inflation and an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths – would derive from Olympic Games.

Vancouver’s biggest potential benefit is 2,300 Athletes’ Village affordable housing units that are proposed for land owned by MST Development Corp., a joint venture of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

There is no agreed governance structure indicating how decisions will be made by the multi-stakeholder group which includes: the four First Nations, Vancouver and Whistler. The Four Host First Nations have also made it clear that Sun Peaks should be removed from the plan if the First Nations on whose unceded territory Sun Peaks sits do not allow use of the site.

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There is no operational plan and no indication of how much the city should spend on essential services, including police, fire and other emergency services, transit and transportation, waste management, snow removal and enforcement.

There is no cost or indication of who would pay to get the city-owned PNE Amphitheatre, Agrodome and Hastings Park Games ready.

There is no estimate of the additional time required for staff to negotiate all these legal agreements, let alone determine the financial costs by February 2023, when the final plan must be submitted to the IOC.

Finally, the report notes that city staff are overwhelmed with complicated files related to the overlapping crises of COVID-19, housing, overdoses and mass rezonings, as well as the demands of a vague and unruly council whose members – in addition to board resolutions – have passed over 270 individual motions over the past four years that have required responses from staff.

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This process began with wishful thinking on the anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics, fueled by the enthusiasm of 2020 Winter Olympics President John Furlong, former staff and volunteers.

Since then, Vancouver has enforced a cone of silence despite council’s initial request in November 2020 that staff gather enough information to “allow members of the public to register to speak to council by the first quarter of 2021. “.

The Council requested a “critical analysis of the cost-benefits of the 2010 Olympics and in particular any known or perceived impacts on housing, affordability, the environment and the climate” in March 2021. It never made public before being appended to this new report.

The mayor firmly quashed the suggestion of a plebiscite earlier this year by falsely claiming a vote violated the memorandum of understanding that set up the Assembly of Leaders – a council of understanding approved at a closed meeting in November.

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But the unelected and irresponsible COC is not beyond reproach.

As glowing as the vision of “Indigenous-led” Games and “reconciliation” is, it only surfaced at the COC last summer. Only then were the four Host First Nations approached to lead the bid.

And it wasn’t until last March, when the COC technical team chose Sun Peaks over Cypress Mountain as the site, that the First Nations in that area were contacted.

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

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