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Toronto Toronto mayor John Tory expected to reject Olympic bid

A large Toronto sign is set up as part of Panamania Live at Nathan Phillips Square on July 9 2015. Toronto is closing in on a deadline to declare interest in bidding for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

People familiar with John Tory's deliberations on a Toronto Olympic bid expect him to say no on Tuesday, citing a tight timeline and lack of interest from the private sector as reasons for not pursuing the 2024 Summer Games.

For weeks, the Toronto mayor has remained coy about whether he will submit a letter of interest in hosting the Summer Olympics, saying an official decision won't be made public until Tuesday's deadline. That letter would trigger a vote at city council and begin a year-long contest to try for the sixth time to bring the Olympics to Canada's largest city.

"The mayor will announce his decision by the Sept. 15th deadline," Mr. Tory's office said in a statement Monday.

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But according to two sources with knowledge of what the mayor is thinking, he is expected to announce Tuesday that he has opted against Toronto submitting a bid. That decision came down to timing, the sources said.

The mayor has repeatedly said he only turned his attention to the idea of an Olympic bid after Toronto's Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, which ended just last month.

Since then, both Mr. Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne have described their challenges in getting answers to questions about a potential bid, including cost, and whether Pan Am facilities could be reused for an Olympic event.

On Monday, Ms. Wynne remained non-committal. "What I can tell you is that Ontario is not going to put itself forward and be on the hook for all of the costs," she said.

The Premier also pointed to the fact that the Olympic issue falls in the middle of a federal election campaign, meaning it remains unclear what, if any, financial support a bid might receive from the federal government.

"We need to understand where the other levels of government would be," she told reporters.

The Olympic issue also comes in the middle of a busy fall agenda that includes several of the mayor's key issues – among them SmartTrack, the Gardiner Expressway and Uber. Voting on an Olympic bid at city council – a subject that has already proven divisive among councillors – would only distract from those other issues, sources said.

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In the past few weeks, Mr. Tory has consulted with community and business leaders across the city on the Olympics. One source who took part in those consultations said a lack of enthusiasm from Bay Street was another reason behind the mayor's reluctance.

Earlier this month, Mr. Tory said if the city were to move forward with a bid – estimated to cost up to $50-million – he would expect some of the costs to be borne by the private sector.

Most recently, the city submitted failed bids for both the 1996 and 2008 Olympics.

Paul Henderson, a former International Olympic Committee member who was head of the 1996 effort, said he has spoken with the mayor as recently as this past weekend, persuading him against a 2024 bid.

"I'm not negative, I just realize the odds are against us for 2024," he said.

With cities such as Rome, Budapest, Paris and Los Angeles already in the running, Mr. Henderson said, Toronto would have a hard – and expensive – time competing.

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He also said the argument many have put forward – that the Games follow an unwritten "rotation" and the 2024 should fall to a North American city – is flawed.

"Through the IOC eyes … [2016 Summer Olympics host city] Rio is considered the Americas," he said. "So 2024 in the normal rotation would go back to Europe."

Instead, Mr. Henderson has already begun lobbying for a 2026 Winter Olympics bid, saying the downhill skiing events could be co-hosted by an American town, such as Lake Placid.

With reports from Adrian Morrow and Jane Taber

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