Today, reports came out quoting Doug Ford, speaking on behalf of the Mayor’s Office, saying that they received a proposal from a group to initiate a bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which was "quickly rejected".
Disappointing is understating my reaction to the story.
There are plenty of arguments against hosting the Olympics. The main argument, and the one being made by the Fords, is that it costs too much money. Well it is true that massive amounts of money are spent to what may be a three-week party, most of that money is spent on infrastructure, like new sporting facilities and expanded public transit. These provide lasting benefits for the City, especially when planned right.
Toronto has bid twice for the Olympics - the first time for the 1996 games (which went to Atlanta) and then the ill-timed bid for the 2008 games (which went to Beijing). Toronto’s bid was considered technically superior and financially responsible for the 2008 games - quite simply, politics led to a Chinese win.
So why would Toronto be third time lucky? The 2020 Games offer an opportunity that is unprecedented that give Toronto a major edge if it bid. This includes:
- The last summer games in North America occurred in 1996
That’s 24 long years. The IOC is itching, salivating even, to return to the lucrative North American market. And over the past 24 years, the summer games have done a world tour - Australia, Europe, Asia, Europe, South America - it’s North America’s “turn”, so to speak. PyeongChang will be hosting the winter games in 2018, so Asia’s likely out. But what about the United States?
- The United States is “very unlikely” to be submitting a bid for the 2020 Games
After two consecutive failed bids - New York’s for 2012 and Chicago’s stinging loss of the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro, the United States initially ruled out a bid for the 2020 games. However, recently the IOC is reportedly “begging” for the United States to initiate a bid, but given the September 1st deadline, its domestic competition process they have for a bid makes it unlikely an American bid could happen. No American bid substantially increases Toronto’s chances, given point #1.
And if Toronto doesn’t bid or win 2020? You can be sure the United States will bid, and win, 2024 - pushing the next chance for Toronto into the unforeseeable future.
- What about South Africa?
South Africa is seen as the main contender for the 2020 Games. After successfully hosting the World Cup, they are well positioned to host the Olympics. However, would the IOC wade further into untested waters following the 2016 games in Rio? There are questions on how well the 2016 games will go - the IOC may prefer a more dependable venue for a breather before making the jump into Africa.
- Stable ground
Toronto may represent the most attractive choice for the IOC, given the current global economic and political situation. A sound financial system, a government that claims to be making its way out of deficit by 2015, and relative political stability are all things the IOC will be comforted by.
If these reasons don’t persuade the Fords that the Olympic bid is in the City’s best interest, then how about this?
- Olympics mean a big giant stadium: you know, of the kind that could be built to accommodate a NFL team. Yay Football! Worst case, you can turn it into a casino.
- Olympics mean subways: we need them, right? Torontonians deserve nothing but. And imagine the potential naming rights revenues from the Coca-cola Olympic Subway Sandwiches Line. If you want the private sector to be involved in subway construction, this would be probably the only way to do it. We can probably do a monorail to the stadium too, yah?
- A big giant graffiti removing machine: you can probably justify the purchase of one. We’d want the City to be spotless.
It annoys me to no end that this proposal was “quickly rejected” by the Fords, especially when I had previously thought an Olympic bid would be something they would jump on. It’s a ticket to get things built, a chance to actually create a legacy, and it’s something Chicago wanted to do but hasn’t been able to so we’d be able to be better than Chicago for once. The worst part was the excuse - we don’t have money for a bid.
We do. It’s just in the wrong place - studying the impossible financial feasibility of the Sheppard Subway extension.
Which do you think has better odds at succeeding?