With an Olympic bid off the table and the Pan Am Games fading from memory, Toronto is pondering whether it should vie for another international event.
On Monday, Mayor John Tory will meet with two officials from the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) to discuss the 2025 World Expo. The Toronto Region Board of Trade will also hold a panel discussion on the benefits of playing host to such an event.
“Expo 2025 could be a tremendous global marketing opportunity for Toronto,” said Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, a proponent of the Expo 2025 bid. “We could promote Toronto as an international destination.”
The World Exposition is held every five years in a different city, with 169 member countries designing pavilions based on a theme of international importance. If Toronto were to be selected, Expo 2025 would be a massive event, lasting six months and attracting 40 million tourists from around the world.
A 2014 Ernst & Young report estimated that playing host to the Expo could provide as much as a $15.5-billion infusion to Canada’s GDP, with $8-billion generated in Toronto and $5.4-billion in new tax revenues.
The cost of holding the event would be between $1-billion and $3-billion.
But there’s a long way to go before deciding whether Toronto should become a contender. After deciding not to enter a bid for the 2024 Olympics, Mr. Tory created a panel to advise him on event bidding. While the BIE secretary-general and deputy secretary-general will meet with the mayor and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Monday to learn more about playing host to Expo, the mayor’s office says Mr. Tory will wait until February before making any decisions.
“When it comes to bidding on major international events, we have to look seriously at the benefits they would hold for Toronto and weigh those against the very real investments of time and money that would be required,” said a statement from Mr. Tory’s office.
Becoming a host city is a long process, made even more difficult for Toronto after Canada discontinued its $25,000-per-year membership with the BIE in 2013. Countries wishing to hold the international event must first submit a bid. After all bids are received, the decision is voted on by an assembly of BIE member nations. A non-member country like Canada can submit a bid but will have to receive a two-thirds majority from the vote, with member countries given priority over non-members. The cities of Rotterdam, Paris and Osaka are likely contenders.
“[For a non-member country to become a host city] is not an impossibility,” said BIE deputy secretary-general Dimitri Kerkentzes. “But it’s close to one.”
Canada would have to reinstate its membership “as soon as possible,” he said, as other host candidates could start submitting their bids as early as May.
Along with Mr. Tory’s go-ahead, federal and municipal support is essential for the bid, which in itself will cost somewhere between $10-million and $15-million. The cost of the event would be shared by all three levels of government.
Playing host to the event would also mean years of preparation and construction in Toronto. BIE member countries usually start building their pavilions in a host city one or two years before the Expo, Mr. Kerkentzes said.
“In our experience, the host city has to have very strong communication with its citizens,” he explained. “There’s no way to hide preparation for an event of this scale. You are going to have some discomfort due to construction, so you have to communicate the event’s advantages.”
One advantage, says Ms. Wong-Tam, would be leveraging federal and provincial funding for the Expo to improve the Port Lands, a proposed Expo 2025 site. The Port Lands is a 356-hectare industrial area close to downtown Toronto.
Waterfront Toronto communications director Andrew Hilton says revitalization of the area could be finished by 2025 “in theory,” but the area must undergo flood protection and basic infrastructure must be built before any further revitalization can be done. Expo 2025 was not factored into the area’s revitalization plan, which began in 2004. Still, Mr. Hilton says use of the area is not out of the question.
The World Exposition was held in Vancouver in 1986 and in Montreal in 1967.
“Canada has hosted some of the most successful Expos in history,” said Mr. Kerkentzes. “It has a very rich history with Expos.”Report Typo/Error
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