2024 Olympics: Toronto’s Best Hope

Third place in 1996. Second place in 2008. The Summer Olympics have been rather elusive in Toronto’s case, losing to Atlanta, Georgia and Beijing, China, respectively.

After a city council meeting in early August, Toronto’s chances of hosting the 32nd Olympiad in 2020 became null, after council voted against submitting a bid.

Despite growing interest from civic leaders across the province, it wasn’t enough to convince
Mayor Rob Ford that Toronto can afford the hefty price tag. And without backing from all three
levels of government, requesting a bid for an event of such stature is nigh impossible.

But for Canadian sporting enthusiasts and Olympic aficionados, there may just be hope yet. If
the planets align and the sporting gods give their blessing to the city, Toronto looks to be in good shape to bid for the 2024 Olympics.

President of the Devon Group, Bob RIchardson, poses in his office on Bloor and Bay on Nov. 4. Richardson was the chief operating officer for Toronto’s 2008 second place bid.

And the key to winning the bid, it seems, lies in the Pan American (Pan Am) Games.

“I think what Toronto needs to do is, number one, make sure they do a great job on the 2015 Pan Am games,” says Bob Richardson, president of the Devon Group.

“Its 10 000 athletes, 41 countries, and a $1.4-billion investment. If that’s done well, it builds interest and enthusiasm in summer sports, and an opportunity to potentially pursue the 2024 games.”

Richardson was the chief operating officer for Toronto’s 2008 second place bid, which fell 31 per cent short of the 50 per cent plus-one requirement to win. Richardson also served as a senior advisor on the very successful 2015 Pan Am bid, which garnered 65 per cent of the votes in the first round.

The jump from Pan Am to Olympics has been done in the past, having been achieved by Mexico City in 1955 and 1968. But perhaps more intriguing is Rio de Janeiro, who hosted the Pan Am Games in 2007, and won the 2016 Summer Olympic Games – the same nine year gap were
Toronto to win in 2024.

“I think the coincidence plays a significant role,” Richardson said.

“When you can be successful at different levels and show people you can put on a good Games,
the combination would be very helpful for 2024.”

While success in lesser sporting events can be a convincing factor, support from the government is by far more heavily relied upon. Currently in the middle of a discussion over the $774-million budget shortfall, Ford and his council were quick to shy away from any talks of a bid.

Ford has even expressed discomfort in the past over the costs of the Pan Am facilities being erected in Scarborough. But even Ford is beginning to see the upside of upping the ante.

“I talked to [Rob Ford] several times down at Guadalajara on the weekend” Richardson said, where the 2011 Pan Am games recently concluded in southern Mexico.

“He seems pretty keen on the Panam games now, having seen it down there, which is good. I think he’s starting to get a sense on why you want to do this from an Olympic perspective as well.”

In the application process, though, the city plays a smaller role from a financial standpoint. Cooperation from the provincial level can be the ultimate deciding factor, where the debt guarantee needs to be signed (in case all goes wrong). The federal government then equals the provincial investment.

From there, generating revenue almost seems like the easy part. With participation from government partners, sponsorships, advanced ticket sales, and the heavyweight known as broadcasting rights, a huge chunk of money lies dormant.

For Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics, CTV paid in excess of $90-million for broadcasting rights, which paled in comparison to NBC’s $820-million winning bid in the U.S.

Having an infrastructure from the 2015 Pan Am Games also makes things a little easier, as it provides a head start on constructing some of the new facilities.

The Summer Olympics bring along with it a host of benefits as well, says decorated Canadian athlete Adam van Koeverden.

“I think it would be good for the city, province and country as a whole. In the long run, it will generate revenue for small and large businesses here and throughout Canada. It will create jobs and inspire Canadian kids,” van Koeverden said.

The former gold, silver and bronze medallist in sprint kayaking is confident in the prosperity the Olympics carry along with it.

“Amateur sport will benefit through increased private and public investment. I think it would be a net-win for Toronto, Ontario, Canada, athletes, non-athletes and future athletes alike,” he said.

So while there are currently no plans in motion, there are several groups who have expressed interest in putting forth a plan for 2024. Richardson, among a few unnamed others, eagerly anticipate the right moment.

Although coun. Doug Ford’s refusal to comment could mean the potential bid is still clouded with doubt, it might also simply be that the application process is years away, leaving much room for change.

As of now the 2024 Olympics are still a dream for some, but a very plausible one at that.

“At the end of the day it’s about sports and athletes,” concluded Richardson fervently.

“Toronto is well thought of internationally in many regards. As an applicant city, Toronto is in pretty good shape. We will definitely be very competitive.”

That is, if the sporting gods smile upon the city.

By: Kyle Larkin

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