While Vancouver celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the man who co-led the bid and headed the organizing committee wants the city to do it again in 2030.
John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade in a speech Thursday he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games.
“I think the timing is actually very, very good,” he told The Canadian Press. “We have the venues. We could effectively be the only city ever to use exactly the same footprint. We have this opportunity. Eventually, these venues will get tired and get old and the timing will go away.”
Furlong and the late Jack Poole led a successful bid for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. Furlong served as president and chief executive of the Vancouver organizing committee (VANOC).
VANOC said those Games broke even financially.
The cost of holding them was roughly $4-billion.
The B.C. government’s spending on a rapid-transit line to the airport and a convention centre completed for those Games brought the total to $7.7-billion.
“When you look at Vancouver and the message the IOC has been trying to present for future Games about using existing facilities, lowering the cost, this is a perfect case,” Furlong said. “You can’t lower the cost any more than not having to build any venues.”
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart called a potential 2030 Olympics a “fun idea” for the city, but stressed it would be up to provincial and federal governments to make a call on whether to look at a bid and provide necessary funding. He also said he would want a referendum for residents to vote on the idea if there was a thought of going ahead.
“I’m sure if senior governments threw enough money at this, it could all work,” Stewart said. “Really, that’s why it’s their decision whether or not to move ahead with something like this.”
Furlong said the 2030 Games could be transformational again for Vancouver because of the current problems the city faces.
“There are housing costs, homelessness, unaffordable housing and transportation infrastructure that’s not really complete,” he said. “We have some very good transportation infrastructure, but not enough.”
“Our young people would rather not be driving. They’d rather be taking the train or the bus. I have five adult children. Four have moved away.
“Standing back and looking at the city and the region that we’re in and the challenges that we have and how difficult it has been to get ahead of some of these challenges, I thought maybe a bid for 2030 could in actual fact bring people around a new vision.”
The 69-year-old says he isn’t putting his name forward to lead another bid.
“If I reach 80 years of age, I’ll be the oldest person ever in my family,” he said. “I will do what I can to help move this along. I think there are very talented people that came out of VANOC who are young and will be able to do this.”
The host Canadian team won 26 medals in 2010. The 14 gold medals were a record for the most by any country at a single Winter Olympics, since equalled by Germany and Norway in 2018.
Furlong said he thinks there is public appetite for B.C. to throw its hat into the Olympic rings again. He pointed to an online poll recently conducted in the province indicating 68 per cent of those asked felt the 2010 Games were worth the money.
“How expensive could a bid be, given that you have all the tools and the experience is fairly recent?” he asked. “I think the potential to put a bid in place that is not outrageously costly is staring us in the face.”
Calgary contemplated a bid for the 2026 Winter Games.
The estimated cost of playing host was $5.1-billion, but 56 per cent of those who voted in a 2018 plebiscite said ‘no’ to pursuing a bid.
Calgary was the first Canadian city to hold the Winter Olympics in 1988.
A drag on VANOC’s preparations for 2010 was the ballooning cost of security to more than $900-million.
Calgary estimated the budget for security would be $610-million.
“Calgary opened the door to a conversation about security,” Furlong said.
“I think there is a security model that’s quite a bit less expensive than the one we had in 2010. It’ll be up to us to flesh that out.”
The Olympic Games landscape has altered dramatically in the decade since Vancouver and Whistler. Fewer cities line up to bid. Beijing won a two-horse race for the 2022 Winter Olympics just 14 years after playing host to the Summer Games.
“Every one of these races for the Olympics is a competition between cities,” Furlong said. “I like our chances against anyone.”