Don’t think for a minute this isn’t serious talk.
Yes, we’ve all been down this road before. Several times, for some of us.
Toronto got smoked when it bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics, starting out ahead but then succumbing to political troubles at home and to the power of Atlanta and their gung-ho American team. And, yes, don’t forget that talk about the favours done for International Olympic Committee members.
The 2008 Summer bid was always a long shot. China had to have done something stupid to have lost the Games, and they didn’t. So that was that.
Now you come to 2020. Yes, it’s awfully soon after Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games. Yes, it would be four Olympics in 44 years for a relatively puny country like Canada.
But here’s the thing: this might be the most winnable bid Toronto will ever have.
(I’m not saying the city should go for it. Personally, I think we’d get a lot out of the Pan Am Games in 2015 for very little cost and that security costs for the Olympics might outweigh the benefits.)
What I’m arguing isn’t that it’s a good idea, but that if you’re one of those folks who’s convinced it’s a good idea this might be the optimal time. And here’s why.
With Chicago having taking it, well, this is a family blog so we’ll say on the chin but you know what I mean, the United States is in ABSOLUTELY NO MOOD to jump back into the ring. An American bid is almost impossible unless the United States Olympic Committee does an absolute 180 degree turn and learns to get along with the IOC and not provoke it with repeated thrusts of a sharp stick.
Think about it; it’s time to come back to North America – the last Summer Games here were the forgettable Atlanta Olympics in 1996 - but there’s almost certainly no U.S. bidder. Which would leave Toronto in seemingly remarkable shape.
There’s also no sentimental favourite like Toronto faced in the 2008 vote with Beijing, or like Chicago just faced with Rio. With the 2016 Games in Rio, the only potential “you owe us the Games” candidate would be in Africa, which also has never hosted the Olympics. Right now, it’s hard to see an African bid on the horizon unless South Africa uses the 2010 World Cup as an Olympic trampoline for 2020.
That would be formidable, but I think that after the Rio bid the IOC likely will want to play one down the middle and go with Europe or Asia or North America. Tokyo might go again, and ditto for Madrid. Assuming former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch is still around, Madrid would be a formidable opponent for 2020. There’s been no indication yet that will happen, as the Madrilenos are still licking their wounds over last week’s loss to Rio.
Venice and Rome are talking about bids, which also would be interesting. Hey, Venice wouldn’t have to build a rowing course, right? Still, those aren’t exactly Beijing or Rio, are they? Any Olympic fight is tough. But 2020 appears to be, for now, about as wide open as you can imagine.
Several things would have to happen, of course. The folks who troll around the world gathering information and chatting with IOC types would have to gauge the IOC’s appetite for Toronto part III. Then you’d have to have the local will to get it done. I don’t think Mayor David Miller has ever been completely sold on the Pan Am bid, although I assume he’ll show the flag at the vote in Mexico next month. And I don’t know that he’d want to jump into an Olympic fight. But Miller has said he’s moseying off into the sunset, and there’s gonna be a new sheriff come November, 2010. I can see John Tory or George Smitherman being a lot more supportive of an Olympic bid, although who knows what local councillors or local opponents might do.
Then comes the potentially hard part; getting the Canadian Olympic Committee to endorse Toronto for 2020. They’re just gearing up for Vancouver and almost certainly don’t want to hear about another summer bid right now. They might have concerns about this being too soon. COC chief executive officer Chris Rudge told me last week he thinks 2020 is too soon, but that 2024 might work.
There are other, complicating factors, as there always seem to be in Canada. And that is Quebec.
Quebec City has bid for the Winter Games before and lost. And there are rumours it wants to go again, perhaps in 2022 or 2026.
The last thing this country needs is another set of bobsleigh runs, ski jumps and speedskating ovals. Geez, we’ve already got them in Calgary and now Vancouver/Whistler is replicating them a few hundred miles west. To have a third set of Olympic venues in this country would be sheer insanity and an incredible waste of taxpayers dollars.
But the COC is always mindful of being fair to all regions (to a fault, actually), which is why they opted to try for the Winter Games bid for Vancouver in 2010. And don’t forget that the new guy coming into head up the COC is none other than Quebecker Marcel Aubut. He will be under plenty of pressure to give Quebec City a Winter Olympics shot before letting Toronto potentially muck up the works.
This is all speculation, of course, but that’s what’s fun about the Olympic bid business.
One other thing to keep in mind. Bob Richardson, who was chief operating officer for the Toronto 2008 bid, was quoted in the Star on Sunday as saying there’s ZERO chance of a Toronto 2020 bid.
I don’t think he really means it. But Richardson is lobbying heavily for Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games bid, and he can’t be seen as lusting after a sexier dame when he’s twirling around the dance floor with Miss Pan Am, can he?
Richardson was passionate about the Toronto 2008 bid, and he undoubtedly loves the idea of 2020. Or at least 2024. But he’s got to deal with the November 6 Pan Am vote first. The last thing he wants is to have Toronto’s Pan Am opponents, Lima and Bogota, going around to Pan American Games voters and telling them that Toronto actually doesn’t love them but really wants the Olympics.
No, you’ll hear nothing positive from Richardson about a Toronto Olympic bid until he hears what happens with the Pan Am Games. But that doesn’t mean he or other folks who were instrumental in the 2008 bid aren’t standing eagerly on the sidelines, waiting for just the right moment to pounce. They are.
It’s gonna get interesting, folks.