— Published 16 June 2022

Vancouver 2030, a bid that doesn’t yet say its name

A step. Decisive, certainly, but far from being the last. On Tuesday 14 June, the sponsors of the Olympic project in Vancouver, Canada, took another step forward. But they still have a few more to go before they can officially declare themselves candidates for the Winter Games in 2030.

Lined up in good order behind representatives of the First Nations – Canada’s indigenous peoples – the project’s proponents unveiled the results of a 24-page feasibility study on a Winter Games bid in Whistler, British Columbia on Tuesday 14 June.

A concept, therefore, presenting the potential sites for Olympic and Paralympic events. According to the official version, it was developed during the feasibility phase by the First Nations, in collaboration with the Canadian National Olympic and Paralympic Committees, and the cities of Vancouver and Whistler.

Not surprisingly, the Vancouver project follows the IOC’s recommendations for a responsible and sustainable Winter Games to the letter. It builds on existing facilities that were built or renovated for the 2010 Winter Games. Leading the way are the University of British Columbia’s Doug Mitchell Sports Centre (ice hockey), the Richmond Olympic Oval (speed skating), and the Whistler Sliding Centre (bobsleigh, skeleton and luge).

The concept also proposes a new partner, with the Sun Peaks ski resort near Kamloops. It would host the snowboard and freestyle events. It also includes the construction of three athletes’ villages near the Vancouver, Whistler and Sun Peaks clusters.

With this new stage, which has long been announced in British Columbia, Vancouver remains in the running. But the Canadian project still lags far behind the two presumed leaders of the 2030 Winter Games campaign, Sapporo and Salt Lake City. Several pieces are still missing from its file. And time is not on its side.

On Tuesday 14 June, the Canadians unveiled a concept, potential venues and the sacrosanct principles of sustainability and use of existing facilities. The IOC should appreciate this. But their feasibility study does not mention any budget. Financial estimates are expected in the coming weeks.

Wilson Williams, spokesperson for the Squamish Nation, explained in a Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) press release: “This is an important step in our consideration of a potential Indigenous-led bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now it is time to speak to our communities, and indeed the Canadian public, as we seek feedback on the more detailed proposal. The communities will have an opportunity to add their voice to the discussion and help the Leadership Assembly as we move closer to a decision.”

The message is clear: Vancouver has completed its feasibility study, but it still needs to convince residents before it can advance a new pawn and really talk about a bid. The road is still long. The question of a possible referendum, in particular, has not been officially decided. The comments exchanged on Tuesday 14 June even suggest that the stage of a popular consultation is far from being ruled out.

The problem is that the Canadians are running out of time. The IOC suggested last month at the closing day of its 139th Session that a “preferred candidate” would be announced by the Executive Board in December. This candidate is expected to be the only one to continue the dialogue phase. He or she will then be submitted for validation to the next session of the body, in early June 2023 in Mumbai.

The chronology of the next steps does not favour the Canadian project. According to the document published on Tuesday 14 June, the current commitment phase of Vancouver 2030 should run until December. At that time, the IOC Executive Board is expected to announce the name of one or two preferred candidates. It seems difficult to imagine that the IOC Executive Board would then choose a project – Vancouver – that would only be at an intermediate stage of the process.