The former CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games organizing committee says now is the time for Vancouver to seriously consider a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.
Furlong is set to outline his vision for a 2030 Olympic bid in a speech to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on Thursday.
The Vancouver 2010 Games were widely considered to be a success, he says, and he believes a 2030 bid would have the support of the Canadian Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the general public.
“I think what’s really special about Vancouver is that we have a very powerful legacy from the Games,” Furlong told Global News.
“We don’t have a city that’s annoyed or angry or felt… betrayed by what took place in 2010 and we have these wonderful venues.
“We have the admiration of the world and we have a reputation with the IOC that’s pretty well stellar. So you think about all of that and it’s almost staring you in the face that this is an opportunity.”
Furlong says the next step is to talk to various levels of government about what an Olympic bid might look like.
The provincial government says it’s far too early to discuss what sort of financial support the province would provide.
“If Mr. Furlong wants to put together a proposal, of course we would look at it,” B.C. Sport Minister Lisa Beare said.
“To date there is nothing, no work has been done yet.”
PwC estimated the Games boosted the gross domestic product by $2.3 billion over the 2003 to 2010 period.
The provincial government estimated the Olympics cost B.C. taxpayers $925 million. But the province says we are a long way from allocating any more to a 2030 bid that hasn’t formally started.
“I certainly feel there are lots of British Columbians and Canadians that have fond memories of 2010. I certainly do. It was an overwhelming success at the end of the day but there were challenges near the completion of the bid,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said.
“But there needs to be a bid. It needs to come from the community. It needs to come from Vancouver. This is not something we will be initiating.
“I will have to go back to the finance minister and see what we have for hypothetical bid processes 10 years from now.”
Furlong says if stakeholders in the business and sports communities react positively, discussions could move forward in a tangible way.
He cited a recent Research Co. poll that found a healthy majority of British Columbians were happy with the 2010 Games and its legacy.
Sixty-eight per cent of respondents said hosting the 2010 Games was worth it and 82 per cent are satisfied with Games-related infrastructure projects, such as the Canada Line SkyTrain and refurbished Sea-to-Sky Highway.
The survey also found 62 per cent support for a bid to host the Summer Games.
“The public are telling us they had a great time,” Furlong said. “They liked what happened. They believe that the infrastructure was well-done and successful.”
Sapporo, Japan is the first city to enter an official bid for the 2030 Winter Games. Salt Lake City and Barcelona have also been mentioned as possible bidders.
All three cities, like Vancouver, have hosted Olympic Games in the past.
Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics and the 2026 Winter Games were awarded to Milan-Cortina in Italy.
Furlong says some might think it’s too soon for Vancouver to bid on another Olympic Games, but recent changes at the IOC make a 2030 bid more viable.
The IOC’s reformed bidding procedure now includes an invitation phase where national Olympic committees can discuss the viability of a bid.
“It’s not… ‘Here’s the rule book. Tick all the boxes.’ It’s a conversation. It’s a discussion,” he said.
“It’s about ideas and about changing the way you do things. And I think what the IOC has said to us , ‘We’re all ears and we’re willing and we want this to be a great success for every city and every country that stages it.’ That’s a great place for us.”
The revamped bidding process also includes promoting the use of existing facilities, something that could work in Vancouver’s favour.
“It’s a rare thing to be able to show up with an Olympic bid in your back pocket and say, ‘We don’t have to build any venues.’ We did those and they’re still there and they’re better than they were.”
The IOC recently abandoned its practice of awarding Olympic Games every two years, and seven years in advance of the Games themselves.
There is now no timeline for naming an Olympic host city, but Furlong believes time is of the essence.
“Being in this race, I think we’ll probably legitimately scare off a few cities,” Furlong said.
“It’s not like Vancouver doesn’t have a pretty good track record. Getting in early, having something to say and having a real vision could really help shore up and tighten that field and give us a sense of how strong a bid from here might be.”
— With files from Chris Gailus, Richard Zussman and The Associated Press
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