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Canada throws hat in race for 2030 Games in ‘Indigenous-led’ proposal

“This approach really stands from a commitment to reconciliation."

Canada is making a push for the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in British Columbia with a first-ever Indigenous-led hosting concept that aims to build new visions and paths toward reconciliation through sport.

On Tuesday (June 14) at a ceremony in Whistler, British Columbia’s Four Host Nations of Líl̓wat (Lilwat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, along with municipal partners and leader groups announced they are exploring ways to bring the Olympics and Paralympics (the Games) to the west coast province in eight years with Vancouver, Richmond, Whistler, and Sun Peaks Mountain Resort near Kamloops serving as its athletic hubs.

“Today is a very important day as we enter into the next phase of this Olympic journey,” said Chief Jen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, in a press release. “Tsleil-Waututh is honoured to stand with our families from the Four Host Nations and our partners as we continue the good work to move towards the first ever Indigenous-led Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Core values around hosting are that it would be “values-led, community-focused, and sustainable”, such as re-using existing or legacy venues from 2010 Vancouver and being a climate-positive event.

A vision behind the innovative Indigenous-led approach is to set up a “global model for partnerships between First Nations, governments, and the world of sport in the exploration of hosting transformative major events.”

Therese Brisson, Alpine Canada’s president and CEO, has worked behind the scenes for a year toward the proposed bid and said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

“This approach really stands from a commitment to reconciliation,” Brisson said to the Outlook. “One of the calls to action in Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 91 was really about calling upon officials and host countries of international sporting events like the Olympics, Pan-Ams, to ensure Indigenous peoples territorial protocols are respected.

“What I think is really amazing about this bid is [the Four Host Nations are] not just participating, but, in fact, leading and so that’s really terrific.”

Last December, the Four Host Nations and the municipalities of Vancouver and Whistler signed a memorandum of understanding as the first step toward 2030.

Then in January, the Four Host Nations and municipal partners invited the Olympic and Paralympic committees on their lands to discuss the feasibility of hosting.

Tim Gayda, who was responsible for the Games master plan for the feasibility team, has been working for more than two decades on Winter Games and was truly inspired by this process.

“I think a lot of people struggle with what does Indigenous-led mean, but I think yesterday was a good example of how things can be done differently and it’s just very exciting to be part of it,” he said to the Outlook.

The project now moves into the public engagement phase. Budget projections are expected to be out in July.

Should the project be greenlit, Canada aims to launch a formal bid to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by April 2023.

“This is an important step in our consideration of a potential Indigenous-led bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Squamish Nation spokesperson Wilson Williams, in a press release. “Now it is time to speak to our communities, and indeed the Canadian public, as we seek feedback on the more detailed proposal. In keeping with the traditions of our Nations, the communities will have an opportunity to add their voice to the discussion and help the Leadership Assembly as we move closer to a decision.”

Along with B.C, Canada, three other regions are known to have expressed interest in hosting the Games including Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Sapporo, Japan; and Barcelona-Pyrenees, Spain.

It is expected the IOC will announce the host of the 2030 Games in May 2023.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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