Boston flop a sobering reminder to Toronto

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 27, 2015 7:21 PM

By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Basking in the glow of a hugely successful Pan American Games

Toronto mayor John Tory was looking at an Olympic bid in a more sobering light on Monday as Boston pulled out of the 2024 Summer Games race.

Emboldened by a Pan Am experience that won rave reviews, Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) president Marcel Aubut used a closing news conference to officially kick off a campaign to convince Canada's largest city to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

That enthusiasm was tempered on Monday with news that Boston was ending its candidacy for the 2024 Olympics, putting a spotlight on the many challenges and pitfalls that await any city looking to land the world's biggest sporting extravaganza.

The U.S. Olympic Committee rescinded Boston's bid after the city's mayor said taxpayers could not afford to host the large-scale event.

The move was met with relief by Massachusetts officials, who had faced an active opposition campaign that fought the idea of hosting the Games, forecast to cost more than $8.6 billion.

Tory has seemed intrigued about the prospect of a 2024 bid but has not yet committed to throwing the city's hat into a crowded ring that already includes Paris, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany.

"They say you shouldn't go shopping when you are hungry," a cautious Tory told Reuters in a phone interview. "I think these kind of big decisions have to be made, not on emotion but based on sensible, rational, fact-based discussion and consultation.

"We can be very enthusiastic and positive about of what I think were a very successful first part of these two sets of Games, but that enthusiasm alone is not the sole basis upon which you should be making a big important decision."

For 16 days, Toronto got a taste of the Olympic experience and ate it up with gusto, filling stadiums and arenas, eager to be part of the Pan Am excitement.

More than one million tickets were sold as Canadian athletes gave locals plenty of reason to come out and cheer as the team won a record 78 gold and 217 medals overall.

But the Pan Am Games' $1.4 billion price tag is a fraction of what it would cost to host an Olympics, and Canadians are well aware of the financial risks, Montreal needing decades to pay down the $1.5 billion debt from the 1976 Summer Games.

Toronto has failed in two bids for the Summer Olympics losing to Atlanta in 1996 and Beijing in 2008 and last year a Toronto economic development committee unanimously rejected the idea of another Olympic bid.

With a Sept. 15 deadline looming for cities to submit a letter of intent to the International Olympic Committee, time is short but Tory says the city will not be rushed.

The mayor said he would wait until the Aug. 7-15 ParaPan Games are completed, before he dives into planning for an Olympic bid that would require widespread support from all three levels of government: Toronto city council, provincial and federal governments which will have to provide financial guarantees.

"There are a lot of people to consult," Tory said.

"It is fine that my signature has to appear at the bottom together with Mr. Aubut's, but obviously the partnership with the other governments is crucial.

"The members of city council are people that obviously have something to say about this. Then there are the other people, the business community, the labor movement, the sports community who you would want to hear from."

(Editing by Gene Cherry)