Dan Fumano: Host First Nations aim to change the Games with a bid

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Opinion: Many people in British Columbia will want to support the concept of the first Indigenous-led Olympic bid in history. The IOC?

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It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of ​​Vancouver hosting another Olympics just 20 years after its first round seemed quite fanciful.

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But the concept of the first Indigenous-led bid in Games history is something a lot of people want to support.

At BC Place Stadium, leaders of four BC First Nations – the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations – announced and signed a memorandum of understanding with the mayors of Vancouver and Whistler on Friday. , with a view to possibly concluding an official bidding agreement to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2030.

“I know our ancestors are watching us now, and we’re going to play a big role in a native-led proposal,” said Musqueam leader Wayne Sparrow. “It’s very, very exciting, and I think that’s a big part of the reconciliation.”

This is all in its early stages. The memorandum of understanding signed by leaders at Friday’s event speaks of “exploratory discussions” to “explore a potential official candidacy” with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

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But despite the preliminary nature of Friday’s announcement, every speaker underscored its historic significance. COC President Tricia Smith, four-time Olympian, said she had “goose bumps”.

The mayors of Vancouver and Whistler, each identified in the memorandum of understanding as a “guest,” insisted on highlighting which entities were in the driver’s seat and which were there to support them.

Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said: “I am ready to put my shoulder behind and follow these leaders. “

It would be the first Olympic bid in history led by indigenous or indigenous groups, said Dr Bill Mallon, co-founder and former president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. Reached in South Carolina on Friday, Mallon said the IOC would likely consider an Indigenous-led candidacy favorably, but of course there are a myriad of considerations they’ll take into account in their decision to host for 2030.

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Other potential hosts for the 2030 Winter Games are Sapporo, Japan, and Salt Lake City. Before Friday Mallon thought Salt Lake looked most likely to be successful, but after Vancouver’s announcement Mallon said, “I have a feeling Salt Lake or Vancouver will understand.”

Both Vancouver and Salt Lake bids will benefit from the existing infrastructure that hosted the Games so recently, Mallon said, reducing costs.

A (relatively) more modest price might appeal to the CIO, which has recently tried to move towards a smaller financial and ecological footprint. For the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, for example, instead of announcing the construction of a bunch of state-of-the-art venues, the official Games site is touting its intention to use “95% of venues. existing or temporary ”, each with“ a clear and defined legacy aligned with the city’s long-term development plans ”.

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One advantage of Salt Lake over Vancouver, Mallon said, is that their candidacy is more advanced.

The day before Vancouver’s announcement, GamesBids.com , an online news source dedicated to what its name suggests, reported: “Salt Lake City’s bid for the future Olympic Winter Games was greeted by IOC President Thomas Bach on Thursday during rare comments on the current site selection process on the part of the influential leader. “

“There was great unity and enthusiasm there. It was a very good feeling, “Bach noted of Salt Lake City, GamesBids reported, also noting that other potential hosts for 2030 have” lacked that cohesion “citing regional feuds surrounding the joint Pyrenees bid. Barcelona in Spain, and “a divided city council. In Vancouver.

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While some members of Vancouver’s “divided city council” are generally skeptical of the Olympics, the council formally approved the memorandum of understanding in a closed-door meeting last month. (The councils of Whistler and the Four First Nations did the same.)

Vancouver County. Jean Swanson, who represents COPE, was a particularly strong opponent of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

“I spent three years of my life fighting the Vancouver Olympics,” Swanson said Friday. “If we had spent the money we spent on the Olympics on fighting poverty and homelessness, we could have ended it. “

But for Swanson, and perhaps others generally critical of the Games, the concept of an Indigenous-led initiative gives her pause.

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“I am skeptical,” Swanson said. “But I want to do things that will support the host nations. So it’s a huge conflict for me.

Swanson and many others don’t like the idea of ​​spending public funds on a sports festival when crises like homelessness are worse than ever. And the dollar numbers and cost overruns matter: The Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based international think tank, estimated that the 2010 Vancouver Olympics cost $ 7.6 billion. This figure would make the 2010 Olympics much cheaper than some editions, but still more than triple the original budget.

Vancouver would not need many, if any, new venues, but would require the construction of a new Athletes Village. Local First Nations would be well placed for such development.

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In addition to being the title holders of the region, Nations have also become increasingly powerful commercial and political entities. MST Development Corp., the partnership between the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, has grown into one of the city’s largest real estate developers, and the nations own 160 acres of prime developable land in the Greater Montreal area. Vancouver worth over a billion dollars .

Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Jen Thomas commented on how far nations have come in the decade since the 2010 Olympics.

“In 2010, we were just small,” said Thomas. “Now everyone knows about MST. Everyone knows that this is our territory.

One of the most accomplished athletes in Canadian history attended Friday’s event, but sat in the crowd and was not one of the ten who stepped onto the podium and took the speech. Clara Hughes is a national icon and the first athlete in Olympic history to win multiple medals at the Summer and Winter Games, but she was not the center of attention on Friday.

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“I am here as a witness,” Hughes told this reporter after the press conference.

Hughes, who was sworn in in 2015 as an honorary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said:, can bring Canada closer to a place where we should be, together, and it can be a role model for each other organization and group do things right.

“It’s monumental,” said Hughes, herself used to big occasions. “It’s fundamental. It is not symbolic, it is not performative, it is substantial. And it is tangible. And it is real.

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