TORONTO (AP) — The head of the Canadian Olympic Committee said Sunday he would push Toronto to bid for the 2024 Olympics.
Marcel Aubut, head of the COC, told a press conference he wants to see Canada’s largest city be an official candidate by Sept. 15, the deadline set by the International Olympic Committee.
“It’s time to make it crystal clear,” Aubut said. “I am officially declaring that I will use the full power of my office to lead and advocate for Toronto’s candidacy to hold the 2024 Olympic Games. This is it.”
So far five cities are already bidding: Boston; Budapest, Hungary; Hamburg, Germany; Paris; Rome. Toronto lost recent bids to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics, and to Beijing for 2008.
“This is working for the candidacy,” Aubut clarified. “We are not working to get the games as such, but to bring Toronto into the process of being an official candidate by Sept. 15.”
Toronto has built several Olympic-grade venues including a pool and cycling velodrome for the Pan Am Games, which end Sunday. It lacks a centerpiece track and field stadium, and would need to build an athletes’ village.
The city spent $2.5 billion Canadian ($2 billion) to organize the games, 90 percent public money. This is 10 times what Winnipeg spent on the 1999 Pan Am Games, and three times what Guadalajara, Mexico, spent four years ago.
“The Pan Am Games paved the way, and Toronto deserves the next opportunity to go further and further in the games,” Aubut said. “It’s the biggest show on earth, the Summer Olympic Games.”
Canada finished second to the United States in the Pan Am Games medal count and won a record number. Officials hope to use the short-term public euphoria as a springboard to the Olympic bid.
Canada last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1976 in Montreal. Those games ran up debts of $1.5 billion, which took the city 30 years to pay off.
Aubut focused on successful Winter Games in Vancouver and Calgary, and downplayed Montreal. He said new IOC president Thomas Bach was emphasizing “cost efficiency” in the Olympics.
“It’s 40 years since Montreal 76,” he said. “It’s time that we do it.”
As Toronto gets into the mix, Boston’s bid is floundering with local approval falling below 50 percent. The United States Olympic Committee was to meet Monday to discuss the Boston bid with Los Angeles a possible alternative.
Toronto could suit some interests in North America, which has not hosted a summer games since Atlanta in 1996. From the American perspective, Toronto could be considered like “home-country games” with Canadian governments picking up the bills.
Aubut emphasized Toronto’s diversity. About 50 percent of residents were born outside Canada, and city hall figures say 45 percent speak a first language other than English or French.
Toronto Mayor John Tory told The Associated Press this week the city must move “very quickly.”
“We have to sit down right after these games and prepare every bit of analysis — on the finances, on the benefits to the city, on the amount of publicity it will give us,” Tory said.
Tory may have a difficult time. The economic development committee of the city council has already rejected an Olympic bid by the cash-strapped city.
Rio de Janeiro, the host of next year’s Olympics, is spending about $12 billion to organize the games. Russia spent about $51 billion to organize the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The 2024 winner will be named in 2017 in Lima, Peru, with Paris often viewed as the early favorite.
Aubut is to travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the IOC this week will announce the venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics. One of his first meetings will be with Bach, who was in Toronto when the Pan Am Games opened.
“This is the moment. This is the time to go forward especially with the success we have had with these Pan Am Games,” Aubut said. “We are going to work very seriously starting tomorrow.”
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