Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut believes that if you impress the world’s sports community enough, maybe Quebec City will get a shot at playing host to the Winter Olympics some day.
Which explains why Aubut is laying out the best Quebec City has to offer when the leaders of the international sports federations meet here for a week next month.
Before winning over their hearts, Aubut will try to please their palates. He has put together an all-star team of Quebec’s best chefs to prepare a gourmet meal for more than 4,000 guests invited to attend a rare public speech by International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.
Then, as Aubut explained, the important thing will be to build ties and networks with the elite members of the international sports federations which over the long term will be needed to convince the IOC that Quebec City would be an ideal location for a future Games.
“This is an important opportunity that we can’t afford to miss in order to position the city for the future,” Aubut said. “This event in May is important in the race and the progression toward positioning Quebec.”
The last Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver in 2010 and Aubut said that it would take several years before Canada will stage the Games again. That means Quebec City will have to be patient.
“I think 2026 would probably be a good year,” he said. “You can never tell what can happen. Maybe a host city will be in trouble [and possibly cancel] … If an opportunity comes, we have to be ready. And the best way to show that we are ready is to show the world we have the ability to host international events.”
International experts have reiterated that the Quebec City region doesn’t have a mountain high enough to hold some of the men’s major Olympic skiing events. But Aubut remained convinced that if you can’t move a mountain, there are always other solutions.
“When there’s a will by everyone to hold the Olympic Games in a one place then a lot of things can be negotiated,” Aubut said, refusing to give any details.
Aubut invoked lawyer-client privilege in refusing to comment on Quebecor Media Inc. owner Pierre-Karl Péladeau’s chances of attracting an NHL franchise to Quebec City.
The city’s decision to build a new sports arena for 2015 that will be managed by Quebecor will be a major asset in helping to eventually attract the Winter Games and an NHL franchise, he added. But Aubut said that the decision to move the Phoenix Coyotes and award Quebec City the franchise belonged to the commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman. He urged all those involved in getting a franchise in Quebec City to remain discreet.
“The biggest mistake we could make is to extrapolate and tell him [Bettman]what to do,” Aubut said. “We have to follow their lead and accept that this is a private matter that involves 30, 31 people and they will tell us one day whether we get one [a franchise]or not.”