Toronto will not bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, extending another long period in which it’s unlikely that either a summer or winter Olympics will be held in North America.
That may be a very good thing.
It cost VANOC $1.9 billion to stage the games, but the total cost including infrastructure was closer to $7 billion. So while the games themselves broke even, the province and feds spent quite a bit on new roads, the Canada Line, and venues.
Some of that was needed. Richmond is fast growing and needed its SkyTrain extension, and improving the Sea to Sky Highway will reduce crashes.
But basing infrastructure spending around a brief sporting event is no way to do long-term planning. Maybe Surrey and Langley should host the 2024 games – we might actually get some better bus and light rail service sometime in the next decade.
While Vancouver broke even on the games themselves, that has not been the experience of many recent host countries. Russia spent about $50 billion on its winter Olympics, China $40 billion on its 2008 summer games, London about $14.6 billion in 2012.
Canada has done better than most when it hosts games – most of the infrastructure keeps being used, but the Olympic Village itself proved a huge headache for both the City of Vancouver and buyers.
More than anything, it’s increasingly hard in a post-recession, slow-growth world to stomach being told that we’re going to have to tighten our belts, retire later, work harder, save more on our own – and then watch the government splash out money to host an event that’s over in less than a month.
In light of these issues, it’s no surprise that Toronto is opting out. It’s possible that someday the Olympics will become more about sport than spectacle, more about the athletes than national medal contests, and maybe then they’ll be cheap enough to host again.