Toronto will chase its elusive Olympic dream yet again.
Bob Richardson, the well-connected organizer behind Toronto’s successful Pan-Am Games bid, told The Globe and Mail that he’s assembling a campaign aimed at bringing the 2024 Summer Olympics to the Golden Horseshoe.
“There’s a group of us looking at it,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a couple of tries before you get that brass ring.”
Twice an Olympic bridesmaid, this would be the city’s third shot at landing the quadrennial sporting event since losing out to Atlanta for the 1996 Games. Toronto also lost to Beijing for a chance to host the 2008 Olympics.
Word of another bid will buoy Olympic hopes for the city just three months after Mayor Rob Ford dashed them by vetoing a proposal for the 2020 Games shortly before it was to be submitted to the International Olympic Committee.
That decision, based on cost concerns, undid months of Mr. Richardson’s efforts to earn support from the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Ontario government and scores of notable Ontarians. He now admits it was all a little rushed.
“For 2020 we weren’t even planning on bidding, but then we saw that the field was very favourable to Toronto and quickly tried to put something together,” he said. “It was a tough ask of political leaders to give their support on such short notice.”
He won’t make the same mistake twice. The International Olympic Committee will select its 2020 host city in September, 2013. Cities vying for 2024 will launch a drawn-out courtship of the IOC soon thereafter.
The formal bidding race will start in 2015 with the winner anointed in 2017. Olympic committees in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and France have hinted they will be submitting bids.
Mr. Richardson has yet to approach the city or provincial government, but as president of Devon Group, a public affairs firm, and chair of Red Leaf, the advertising arm of the federal Liberal Party during the last election, he is known for a big Rolodex that spans the political spectrum.
He may want to start with Mr. Ford, whose blessing – along with that of the Canadian Olympic Committee – would be needed for the IOC to consider a bid.
Mr. Ford has not been approached yet, “so it would be difficult to speculate on whether this will come to fruition,” said his press secretary, Adrienne Batra. “I can say we are looking forward to Pan-Am Games in 2015.”
In August, the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, stated that he’d be open to a full-fledged Olympic campaign at some point in the future. “It’d be nice. If it were maybe two, three, four years down the road, it’d be nice,” he said at the time. “But it’s not feasible right now.”
At the Canadian Olympic Committee, a spokesman said it was “highly speculative” to be talking about 2024 this early, but added that the organization would “act in the best interests of athletes and sport in Canada.”
Mr. Richardson says he has a core group of supporters, but declined to divulge names, referring to them only as “the usual suspects.” His previous campaigns have included the likes of David Peterson, Mike Harris, Hal Jackman, Hillary Weston, Marnie McBean, Paul Godfrey, Mel Lastman and David Miller, among other prominent backers.
At this nascent stage, Toronto simply needs to remain on the IOC’s radar. The effort’s first real push will take place next year in Quebec City at SportAccord, a major gathering of the world’s sporting bodies. Mr. Richardson is also hoping for some kind of Toronto presence at the London Games next year.
Depending on how smoothly they run, the Pan-Am Games will present either a launching pad or a stumbling block for the city’s Olympic ambitions. After a particularly tidy Pan-Am hosting job in 2007, Rio de Janeiro ended up with the 2016 Olympics.
Toronto’s role as perpetual Olympic bridesmaid shouldn’t hurt the city’s chances. Paris has bid four times, London three and Istanbul five.
“People in Toronto think we have been slighted when, by international standards, we’re newbies,” Mr. Richardson said. “This is moose hunting and it’s long-term. We’re not going after squirrels here. Sometimes it takes a while to get there.”