I try to stick to travel on my travel blog (what a concept). But sometimes I can't help delving into other topics for a bit, especially when it's something as global and political and fascinating as the Olympics.
I headed up the Star's coverage of Toronto's 1996 bid against Atlanta, et al..., and also our coverage of the 2008 bid against Beijing. Both, as I recall, were losing efforts on Toronto's part. I also covered Vancouver's bid for the 2010 Winter Games, which had a happier ending.
It is, therefore, with great interest that I see yet another bid in the making. Bob Richardson, the chief operating officer for the 2008 Toronto bid and an unabashed Olympic junkie, is talking up a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
He'll have to get the okay from Mayor Rob Ford, and probably from the province and also from the feds. First up would be the city, without which nothing happens.
Mayor Ford's team turned away Richardson's effort to drum up support for a 2020 bid, saying the city's financial situation didn't allow for such things. It's a fair point, but in August Councillor Doug Ford - the mayor's brother and sometimes political spokesman - said he'd be open to a bid at a future date.
There was talk of a Quebec City bid for the 2022 Winter Games, which would've put Toronto on ice. But Quebec's mayor ruled out a bid a couple months ago, clearing the decks for a Canadian entry for 2024, at least in theory.
There's still a huge need for better amateur sporting facilities in Canada, especially of the summer variety and most notably in our most populous province. The Pan Am Games would help, but the Olympics are a star of a much greater intensity and would, if handled properly from a financial standpoint, bring in that much more.
I don't know if the security costs are worth it these days, but if you don't mind a billion dollars or two in federal/provincial/local money for fences and x-ray machines and police overtime it could work.
The issue becomes, of course, whether 2024 is winnable. Toronto 1996 bid leader Paul Henderson was right when he said Athens wasn't guaranteed the 1996 Games, notwithstanding it was the 100th anniversary of the birth of the modern Olympics, held in Athens in 1896. He was right, but it was Atlanta that elbowed its way into the winners circle for the 1996 Games.
The Toronto folks knew they were up against it for 2008, when they took on the behemoth Beijing bid. They shot themselves in the foot with Mayor Mel Lastman's talk about cannibals in Africa, but they were never going to win the 2008 Games unless China did something really stupid on the international front. They didn't, and they ran a very good Games, albeit one lacking in soul (see photo of the famous Birds Nest stadium in Beijing).
So now we come to 2011. The last Olympics in North America were the largely forgettable 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. The last Summer Games - and the IOC tends to think of their two babies as separate entities - on our continent were the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Here's how the Games have gone since Atlanta: Nagano, Sydney, Salt Lake, Athens, Turin, Beijing. Vancouver. Next: London, Sochi (Russia), Rio de Janeiro and Pyeongchang, South Korea (the 2018 Winter Olympics).
Those bidding for the 2020 Summer Games? Doha (Qatar), Rome, Madrid, Istanbul, Tokyo and Baku, Azerbaijan. The short list comes out next May and the vote will be in 2013.
None of those cities are in North America, of course. But there’s talk of Denver or Reno-Lake Tahoe for 2022, as well as Munich and Norway (a sentimental favourite given the now-legendary status of the Lillehammer Winter Olympics).
The IOC and the United States Olympic Committee still aren’t on the best of terms given disputes over television money and other issues, but there’s at least a possibility of a North American winner. That might scupper a Toronto bid, but, given the vagaries and outright unpredictability at times of the International Olympic Committee, it might not.
Either way, 2024 appears at this early stage to be a lot more winnable than the 2008 effort.
Is it worth doing? I don’t quite know yet. Is it worth watching? Absolutely.