— Published 28 October 2022

Vancouver ends its bid for the 2030 Winter Games

They left in droves, soon there will be only two. Only two candidates, not one more, to fight for the Winter Games in 2030. The same sadly reduced number as for the last two campaigns, in 2022 with Beijing and Almaty, then for 2026 with Milan-Cortina and Stockholm-Åre.

After Barcelona and the Pyrenees, which were reduced to dust by the political quarrels of the regions concerned, a new project is leaving the race. Vancouver, British Columbia, will soon no longer be among the bids under “discussion” with the IOC. The Canadians have not yet officially thrown in the towel. But the die is cast.

The issue is costs. Again and again. Lisa Beare, British Columbia’s Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, announced on Thursday 27 October, via a press release, that her government would no longer support the Vancouver 2030 project.

“After careful consideration, the province is declining to support a bid,” she said. “For more than a year, the province has been engaged in evaluating a potential bid for British Columbia to host the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. I know that the prospect of hosting these Games is exciting for athletes and sport enthusiasts. But the province has a responsibility to weigh the benefits, costs and potential risks of the project. There are billions of dollars in direct costs, and potential warranty and indemnity liability risks on this project, which could compromise our government’s ability to deal with the pressures facing residents at this time.”

The message is clear: British Columbia is pulling out. It will not provide the support that is essential to secure another equally critical piece of support, that of the federal government.

Lisa Baere’s statement continues: “We have already made commitments to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026 and the Invictus Games in 2025. These world-class events will put British Columbia in the international spotlight. They will bring economic benefits that will support the province’s tourism recovery over the next decade and beyond.”

With such a program, the Winter Olympics would be in overdrive. The risk would be disproportionate. Too expensive, too big, despite the new standard and relaxed rules of the IOC’s Agenda 2020+5.

Officially, the withdrawal of the British Columbia government does not kill the Vancouver bid. But it does destroy its chances of going all the way, even against weaker competition than at the start of the campaign.

Sapporo, long predicted to be the clear winner and still touted as the favourite, seems to be paying the price for the corruption scandal surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. The mayor of the Japanese city recently cancelled a visit to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, seemingly at the wrong time to attract the spotlight.

Salt Lake City, the other bidder still in the running, has never made a secret of its doubts about the commercial prospects of the Winter Games in 2030, just two years after Los Angeles 2028. The Americans are more interested in the 2034 edition, although they say they are ready to host the event four years earlier if the IOC makes a pressing request.

For Vancouver 2030, and beyond that for the bid campaign, Friday 28 October promises to be a decisive day. The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) will hold a press conference in the late morning local time, from the capital of British Columbia, to present the media with an “update on the Olympic and Paralympic project.”

The day before, the body chaired by Tricia Smith explained via a press release that it had been “informed of the BC government’s decision not to support the continuation of the current bid to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games back to Canada in 2030.” But she assures us she “believes in the strengths of this Aboriginal-led process to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games back to the region.”

How will the IOC react, faced with a choice now reduced to two options? It’s hard to say. But the body could be tempted once again by a double vote, Sapporo 2030 and Salt Lake City 2034. The scenario would have the merit of avoiding another stale bidding campaign for the 2034 edition.