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John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

CALGARY — A 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games that encompasses more of B.C. than the Lower Mainland and a ski resort town will be part of John Furlong's pitch to the Vancouver Board of Trade on Friday.

The legacy venues and operational know-how that remain from the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., would equip a host organizing committee to extend transformation beyond those hubs into other communities in the province, Furlong told The Canadian Press.

Furlong and the late Jack Poole led the successful bid for the 2010 Winter Games. Furlong was president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver organizing committee (VANOC).

"B.C. is not small. This is Germany, France and England combined. It's a very big area," Furlong said.

"The idea is to let the whole province become members of one team, to let communities be all on the same team, all pulling in the same direction and feel like they are part of something grand as opposed to being spectators of something grand that's happening five hundred miles south of them."

The 2010 Games broke even financially, according to VANOC. They cost roughly $4 billion when the expansion of the Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler is included.

The B.C. government's spending on a downtown rail line to the airport and a convention centre which were completed for those Games brought the total to $7.7 billion.

A drag on VANOC's financial preparations for 2010 was the ballooning cost of security to over $900 million.

The host Canadian team won 26 medals in 2010 to rank third among countries. 

Canada's 14 gold was a record for the most by any country at a single Winter Olympics, since matched by Germany and Norway in 2018.

Furlong says the cost of bidding for 2030 would be a fraction of the $36 million spent on the 2010 bid because the former wouldn't be as labour intensive. 

A 2030 Games themselves would cost less because there are venues and facilities are still in place from 2010, which would free up resources for other regions of the province to participate, he added.

"Vancouver 2030 is not going to petition government for capital investment," he said. "We believe the facilities are there. 

"There is the potential for us to spread out and do more. The question of how we bring all this together is a question communities need to solve."

Calgary contemplated a bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

The estimated cost of hosting was $5.1 billion, but 56 per cent of those who voted in a 2018 plebiscite said 'no' to pursuing a bid.

A joint Italian bid from Milan-Cortina beat out Sweden's Stockholm-Are for 2026.

Calgary was the first Canadian city to host the Winter Olympics in 1988. 

Furlong believes, and says polls indicate, there is confidence in B.C.'s capacity to stage another Winter Games that wasn't there before 2010.

"We have an educated province in the sense that people have lived it before, so you can't really hoodwink anybody," he said. 

"The general feedback from the community has been good, whereas in 2010 I think for a long time we felt we were defending the project."

The bidding landscape has changed dramatically since Vancouver and Whistler vied with seven other cities for the right to be 2010 hosts.

Beijing won a two-horse race for the 2022 Winter Olympics just 14 years after hosting the Summer Games.

With fewer cities interested in bidding for and hosting Olympic Games, the IOC has tried to make it easier and less costly to do so under an Agenda 2020 program that says essentially "reduce, re-use and recycle."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press