An Indigenous-led partnership is moving forward with plans to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, but organizers say all groups must be on board by December if the proposal is to go ahead.
“We do not move forward without one another,” said Tawanee Joseph, who is shepherding Indigenous partnerships for the bid.
“It’s important for each of the organizations that we work with and the nations to make sure that they identify things that are important to them, including challenges, including opportunities. And that’s the process that we’re embarking upon now.”
The Lilwat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations announced on Feb. 1 that they had signed an agreement with the City of Vancouver, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee to explore a bid.
It would be the first Indigenous-led bid for an Olympic Games.
The partnership unveiled more details of the proposed bid on Tuesday, including plans to reuse many of the venues that hosted events during the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
“We’re looking at building no new competition venues. So we’re using what we have,” said Tim Gayda, who was vice-president of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Rogers Arena would once again host hockey, while bobsled, skeleton and luge would be back at the Whistler Sliding Centre and long-track speedskating would return to the Richmond Olympic Oval.
Hastings Park in Vancouver would be a hub for various sports, including short-track speedskating and figure skating at Pacific Coliseum, curling at the PNE Agrodome and snowboarding at a temporary big air ramp.
The proposed bid would also see freestyle skiing and snowboarding events held at Sun Peaks near Kamloops, B.C.
With nearly 1,000 athletes and officials taking part in freestyle events, the sport is like a “mini Games,” Gayda said, and finding the right venue was a challenge.
“I just think when you go to that mountain, it’s got a nice vibe to it in terms of community and a resort destination,” he said. “We just think on television, it’ll be incredible.”
Organizers like that the mountain is north facing, that it allows for early and late-season training, and will be a place where athlete development can continue going forward, Gayda added.
“We feel that it really brings something new to this bid, that we’re tying in the rest of the province and not just Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and Whistler,” he said.
In Vancouver, an athletes village would be built with the Musqueam-Tsleil-Waututh Development Corp. using one of two projects (the Jericho Lands or Heather Lands) the group is currently working on developing.
Villages would also be built to house athletes in Sun Peaks and Whistler.
Each of the groups in the partnership will now present results from a feasibility study on the potential bid to their respective community and get feedback.
The costs of hosting the Games are expected to be released in July and the partnership must make a decision on whether to have a “targeted dialogue” with the International Olympic Committee by December.
Debate over hosting the Olympics has been percolating in Vancouver, where in April, city council voted down calls for a plebiscite on the matter.
Andrew Baker of the Canadian Olympic Committee said Tuesday that the COC advised its partners that a plebiscite could impact whether the partnership was invited to speak with the IOC about hosting the Games.
“Each partner does have their own leadership and their own processes to go through,” he said. “And each partner will do that. And what we’re focused on is bringing those partners together to have conversations and shape a vision that meets the needs of all partners.”
Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart issued a statement Tuesday saying city council will look at the results of the feasibility study and determine whether the 2030 Olympic bid moves forward.
“Hosting the Olympic Games is a monumental undertaking. Precisely the kind of massive opportunity that must benefit Indigenous people and help us in our journey towards building a more sustainable, equitable and just future for all of us,” he said.
Having the various groups work together over the past several months has already helped the partners learn from one another, Joseph said.
“Because we’re not at an adversarial place where we’re looking across the table at someone, you’re looking at a circle with one another, standing beside each other,” he said.
“The education opportunity that we have across this country to share not only our history but where we’re going, that’s what this does. It provides hope that we can tackle some of the challenges we’ve had, from culture, to education, to sport, to others.”
The IOC is expected to announce the host of the 2030 Games in May 2023.
—Gemma Karstens-Smith, THE CANADIAN PRESS