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John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

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VANCOUVER — Economic recovery from the pandemic, a transformational legacy that extends into the province and a cheaper privately-funded Winter Games were elements of John Furlong's "B.C. 2030" presentation to the Vancouver Board of Trade on Friday.

The president and chief executive officer of the organizing committee for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., offered his vision for pursuing another Winter Games two decades later. 

The heavy-lifting done for 2010 and the big-project expertise it bestowed should save money in certain areas, and free up resources to extend the impact of a Winter Games into the province, he said.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of Furlong's speech to the VBT.

Cutting and pasting 2010 into a 2030 proposal was considered, but that option wasn't compelling, Furlong said. 

"Cost, structure and scope — all very different," Furlong said. 

"The compact plan of 2010 abandoned and replaced by a regional, more inclusive plan, that focuses on delivering a province-wide experience and advantage. 

"From three B.C. communities, as was the case in 2010, to as many as eight or nine provided minimum venue and hosting requirements can be achieved."

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational, such as the speedskating oval in Richmond, and the sliding track and ski jumps in Whistler.

"There will be no taxpayer money requested for venue construction," Furlong said. 

"The premise for a 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Bid is rooted in the fundamental notion that we can and will use existing facilities and venues and involve new communities.

"The idea here is that the 2030 Games, would be funded entirely by the private sector."

B.C. communities wanting to be Games communities can obtain funds for their projects from government infrastructure programs, Furlong said.

Games revenues from television, ticket sales, sponsorship and International Olympic Committee marketing adding up to just over $2 billion would cover Games operations, Furlong said.

The cost of 2010 was roughly $4 billion when the expansion of the highway from Vancouver to Whistler is included. Those Winter Games essentially broke even, according to VANOC, the Vancouver Games' organizing committee.

The B.C. government built a downtown rail line to the airport and a convention centre in Vancouver with the Winter Games the deadline for their completion. 

Municipal and provincial governments could leverage 2030 if they choose for projects such as social housing and public transportation, Furlong said.

The cost of bidding for 2030 would be a fraction of the $36 million it cost to bid for 2030, he said.

"In 2010, we started at ground zero," Furlong said. "With the experience that exists, we do not have to learn the process again, we can bring on experienced people as and when they are needed."

Calgary contemplated hosting the 2026 Winter Games for $5.1 billion, but 56 per cent of those who voted in a 2018 plebiscite said "no" to pursuing a bid.

Calgary initially budgeted $610 million for security before dropping that forecast to $495 million. 

Security costs for 2010 went over well over budget and ballooned to $900 million.

"With the advantage of experience and existing practices and new technology many of those early costly procedures can be avoided," Furlong said. 

The bidding landscape has changed dramatically since Vancouver and Whistler fought off seven other contenders for 2010.

The reported $50-billion cost of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the financial overruns of Rio's 2016 Summer Games have fewer cities are stepping up to the plate to bid. 

Beijing won a two-horse race for the 2022 Winter Games.

The IOC has been forced to pivot and give cities more control over how Games are staged. 

The IOC also committed US$925 million of its own money to the winning 2026 bid city, which was Milan and Cortina, Italy. 

"The biggest event in the world in 2030 is in need for an owner. I think we qualify," Furlong said.

Furlong does not intend to be the face of a British Columbia Olympic Organizing Committee, or BCOOC. 

"I'm not looking for a new job and have absolutely no anticipation of running the 2030 Olympic Games at all," Furlong told The Canadian Press in an earlier interview.

"The goal here is to get this over the start line, to get to the point where we could possibly be given the opportunity to do this. 

"I believe in the organization that we had in 2010 and the business community around it, we have an abundance of talent. 

"I'd be 80 by then. It's not happening."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021.

With files from Canadian Press sports reporter Donna Spencer in Calgary.

The Canadian Press