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Officials unveil the Olympic and Paralympic Master Plan Concept for the 2030 Winter Olympics bid in Whistler, B.C., on June 14.JEFF VINNICK/The Canadian Press

B.C. won’t consider support for the proposed Indigenous-led bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics until it gets proof that the many communities and First Nations participating are prepared to contribute to the costs, B.C.’s Tourism and Sport Minister says in a letter to the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The minister, Melanie Mark, also asks the organizers for much more information about those costs, and notes they will have to meet several other requirements. All that information must be supplied by Aug. 15 for B.C. to decide if and how it will participate, said the five-page letter obtained by The Globe and Mail.

“A submission to the province should demonstrate that all eight First Nations and local communities within the 2030 Games region are willing to share in the benefits, legacies, costs, and risks related to the planning, staging and hosting [of] the 2030 Games,” she wrote.

She noted B.C. is already getting and contributing to two other major sports events before then, the Invictus Games in 2025 and Vancouver as a host city for the 2026 world soccer competition.

“Letters of support and minutes or resolutions from Indigenous governing bodies and local government councils would be acceptable, provided they reflect outcomes of local public engagement and are publicly available.”

Indigenous-led Olympic bid for 2030 games will require cash and public support

So far, four First Nations and two cities have officially signed a memorandum of understanding to work on a bid. They include the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Lil’wat First Nations, along with Vancouver and Whistler.

Three weeks ago, the COC announced a preliminary plan for Games venues that also included Sun Peaks, near Kamloops, with four First Nations there involved, and Richmond.

The COC needs to finalize its bid by November, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make a decision by May, 2023. Three other city-regions have expressed interest in hosting the 2030 Games.

Ms. Mark’s letter was written on June 24, well before a news conference held on Friday by the COC and Indigenous partners that put the estimated cost for the Games at $3.5-billion to $4-billion. They said about a third of the funding would come from governments of all levels and the rest from private sources.

In comparison, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Whistler and Richmond cost about $7-billion, with almost a billion coming from the province and half a billion from Vancouver (almost all in the form of new facilities and infrastructure). The federal government paid $500-million toward security and $300-million toward venue development, along with other contributions.

The group estimated the organizing costs at $2.5-billion to $2.8-billion, all to be covered through private sources such as domestic sponsorships, ticket revenues, merchandise sales, a share of the IOC’s broadcast revenues and more.

Representatives said the Games would be worth the cost because they would provide wide-ranging benefits.

“The hosting concept focuses on sustainability while also making investments in new rental housing and sporting venues to create a legacy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that will remain long after the Games end,” said a spokesman for the Squamish Nation, Sxwixwtn.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Olympic technical team lead echoed that.

“The 2030 Games has the potential to have lasting impacts and benefits for the host Nations, broader Indigenous peoples, and the larger society by building a stronger social fabric moving forward in reconciliation and the power of sport,” Dennis Thomas-Whonoak said.

The planners of the current bid say the cost in 2030 would be less than in 2010 because so many sports facilities built at the time would be available, with only the cost of some refurbishing. A lot of infrastructure put in place for the 2010 Games, such as the Canada Line and the improved Sea-to-Sky Highway, don’t have to be repeated.

And, they say, security costs would be only about half of what they were in 2010.

“Since 2010, the approach to security at large public events has changed considerably,” a detailed news release from the proponents said, although it did not explain the change except to say it is “intelligence-led.”

The estimated cost of security for 2030 is $560-million to $583-million, roughly 53 per cent of the 2010 costs of $1.1-billion (escalated to 2022 dollars).

Athletes’ villages, often the biggest capital cost for a Games, will be provided through some of the Indigenous housing developments now in preliminary stages in Vancouver.

“The 2030 project will contribute to much-needed housing in the region, including affordable housing,” the release said.

It added that with a partnership of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh leading the development of the Olympic and Paralympic villages in Vancouver, the projects would be “reconciliation in action.”

The planning team estimated the athletes’ villages they would build for the Games would produce $165-million to $267-million worth of housing, higher than the $87-million (escalated to 2022 dollars) spent in 2010.

But Ms. Mark’s letter made it clear that such promised benefits are likely not enough.

The kinds of guarantees the IOC expects from host governments may need to change, especially in the case of disasters or political upheavals, she said. And the international body should also demonstrate that it will put more preparatory events in B.C. leading up to 2030, so the province could see early benefits, she said.

“The recent global pandemic, weather events such as the extreme floods and wildfires in 2021, and geopolitical uncertainty in other parts of the world make it impractical for jurisdictions (including all levels of government) to bear the full costs and risks of such external events. Understandably, hosting jurisdictions asked to support a bid may consider it necessary for the IOC to reconsider its requirements” so that benefits and risks are shared fairly among all parties, including the IOC.

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