Douglas Todd: 2030 Olympic Winter Games a hard sell for British Columbians

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Opinion: Questions simmer about finances, the housing and opioid crises, the pandemic and how much the Games would contribute to reconciliation.

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The vision of an Indigenous-led Winter Olympics for British Columbia in 2030 is taking shape with additional buzz.

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The proposed extravagance for Vancouver and Whistler would be formally organized by four Indigenous groups, which would be a first. And that leads many to speak rightly about how this would indicate that First Nations in British Columbia are advancing, proud and exceeding their demographic weight.

While Indigenous and non-Indigenous politicians say this would symbolize another step in the reconciliation process, it would also show the influence of the Lil’wat First Nation, as well as the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam, who by l intermediary of MST Development Corp. have become arguably the largest real estate players in the province, owning 160 acres of prime developable land in Metro Vancouver, valued at over $ 1 billion.

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A recent Léger poll, however, reveals skepticism among British Columbians, especially those who lived in Metro in 2010. Much of the British Columbia public thinks the Scoping Committee still has a lot to explain about the benefits of a Games. eight years after now, after that of 2010, which the Council on Foreign Relations estimated the cost at 7.6 billion dollars.

Doubts do not arise only on the most obvious challenge: how much will it cost taxpayers? There are also questions related to the impact of COVID-19, the housing crisis in Vancouver and Whistler, transparency, the opioid death calamity and to what extent the event would actually contribute to the truth and reconciliation.

Who would pay for the 2030 Olympics?

The Léger poll of more than 1,000 adults in British Columbia revealed that the population was divided over the candidacy. Overall support for the Games stands at 34 percent, while 31 percent of residents are neutral and 35 percent oppose the bid.

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“When asked to attribute the cost of the 2030 Winter Olympics, residents of British Columbia attributed most of the costs to the First Nations leading the bid,” Léger said. “However, if the Games were to go ahead, British Columbians believe First Nations would pay less than they should” and provincial, federal and municipal governments would pay more than is fair.

John Furlong, 71, the 2010 Games leader, has promised the 2030 Olympics will be cheaper because most of the rinks, jumps and tracks have already been built. But they age quickly. And Furlong admits that taxpayers will have to pay for counterterrorism security, which cost $ 1 billion a dozen years ago.

Squamish Nation spokesperson Sxwíxwtn (Wilson Williams), noting that First Nations were an important presence as co-hosts in 2010, said he wanted this Indigenous-led nomination to be “so transparent. as possible “. But the MoU is only two pages long; great confidence is expected from the public.

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Sadly, in terms of optics, this is not the best year for Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart to sign as a partner: Last month, city council raised property taxes by a whopping modern record of 6.3%.

Vancouver and Whistler don’t need to be “put on the map”

Stewart commented on how the 2010 Olympics “was a big boost for Vancouver and put us on the map.”

But Vancouver has been on the proverbial map since at least Expo 86, making it a top destination for tourists, international students, and immigrants. Our “world-class” desirability has also attracted a significant inflow of outward investment, which has contributed to making house prices extremely unaffordable in Vancouver and Whistler.

Reconciliation of the weighing

Like Chiefs of the Lil’wat, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam Nations, Esk’etemc Chief Charlene Belleau, who advises the Government of British Columbia on how to distribute a $ 12 million fund dollars for residential schools, told Postmedia News there is great potential “for coastal nations to weave reconciliation into the Olympics through sport.”

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But the public does not seem convinced. While 39% of British Columbians believe that further Vancouver-Whistler Olympics “would benefit Indigenous communities”, only 30% believe they “would help advance the reconciliation process”.

COVID proves to be a scourge for the Olympics

The First Nations-led Exploratory Committee has until March to decide on an official bid, which means doing so just as the pandemic has hammered Japan’s Summer Olympics and will undermine the costly Beijing Games on next month in China, which does not allow it. foreign spectators.

As Muskowekwan First Nation member Melissa Mbarki says it’s exciting to have Indigenous people “think big,” she asks, “With the uncertainty of COVID, is this the best time for a country to make offers for big events? Do we have more to lose than to gain?

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Mbarki lives in Alberta, where Calgarians voted 56% against a candidacy for the 2026 Winter Games.

BC Place Stadium hosted the official ceremonies for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games on February 9, 2010.
BC Place Stadium hosted the official ceremonies for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games on February 9, 2010. Photo by Mark Blinch /REUTERS

New Olympics won’t help Vancouver housing crisis

The Scouting Committee explained how the 2030 Olympics could lead to the construction of an Athletes’ Village, which could later contribute to a desperately needed housing supply.

But there are plenty of reasons to think it would be a token. Or make it worse. Recall that taxpayers had to bail out the $ 1 billion Olympic Village at False Creek, with the city of Vancouver on the hook for $ 300 million.

Anti-Games protests of 2010 still resonate

Protesters gathered 12 years ago to say the billions of dollars injected into winter athletics should instead help the homeless, the opioid crisis and other social calamities. These tragedies have only worsened incredibly, with a record 1,782 illicit overdose deaths last year in British Columbia.

Despite the widely divided views of British Columbians, Olympics historian Bill Mallon says there’s a good chance a Vancouver-Whistler bid will prove victorious over rivals from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Sapporo, Japan.

IOC directors always try to make it seem like they are aligning themselves with higher values ​​- so they would find some appeal in Games led by unique Indigenous people.

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