The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) have thrown their weight behind an indigenous-led bid for the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, agreeing to work with partners including four First Nations in British Columbia.
This builds on a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Lil̓wat7úl (Líl̓wat), xwmə kwəy’əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, Vancouver and Whistler last month.
The new collaboration agreement allows for a full feasibility assessment to be conducted before a decision is taken on whether further a potential bid, with the COC committed to fully funding technical work and local engagement required as part of this process.
Dialogue with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would continue if a decision is made to proceed with a bid for 2030 after the feasibility and “Initial concept” phases.
All the parties involved are set to work on examining the feasibility of staging the Games in 2030.
Experts have been tasked with undertaking research and technical assessments covering the possibility of British Columbia staging the Games in 2030, with “conversations with key stakeholders” ongoing.
A more formal concept review has been promised this spring.
The Games in 2030 would come 20 years after Vancouver last staged the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, when events were also staged in surrounding suburbs and the Whistler resort.
The four groups were represented in the Four Host First Nations Society established after Vancouver was awarded hosting rights for 2010, with their traditional territory used during the Games.
This enabled the Organising Committee to include the First Nations in the decision-making process for Vancouver 2010.
However, the proposal for 2030 has been billed as the first to be spearheaded by indigenous groups, with leaders of the First Nations involved in the agreement insisting they would be at the heart of any bid for 2030.
Wilson Williams, a spokesperson and councillor for the Squamish Nation, welcomed the COC and CPC’s support for the feasibility assessment.
“This is another important step in our process and we hope to build a meaningful relationship with the COC and CPC,” Williams said.
“Their valuable knowledge and expertise will help the Nations decide if we want to move forward with an official bid for the Games.”
Signatories of the agreement vowed that collaboration would respect the 91st call to action of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report from 2015, which urged organisers of multi-sport events to “ensure that Indigenous peoples’ territorial protocols are respected, and local Indigenous communities are engaged in all aspects of planning and participating”.
They have also promised that it would align with legislation from the Province of British Columbia and the Canadian Federal Government aimed at implementing the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Líl̓wat Chief Dean Nelson said a bid “that genuinely embraces” the report’s Calls to Action and legislation would be “ground-breaking”.
“There is potential for these Games to be a social innovation driver for First Nations – we will be considering the many ways this potential can be realised,” Nelson added.
Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow stressed that a potential bid remained in its early stages, but that the agreement would enable the First Nations “to determine the impacts and benefits” of staging the 2030 Games.
“We are only at the beginning of determining what an Indigenous-led Games could look like, but through collaboration and mutual respect, we have the opportunity to create a unique Olympic legacy for all of our communities,” Sparrow said.
Tsleil-Waututh Chief Jen Thomas also emphasised that the First Nations would continue to play a pivotal role in the direction of the bid.
“The work ahead of us will continue to be Nation-led, as we continue with this historic initiative of an Indigenous led Olympic and Paralympic bid for the Vancouver 2030 Games,” Thomas commented.
Kennedy Stewart and Jack Crompton, Mayors of Vancouver and the Whistler Municipality, respectively, both welcomed this latest step.
COC President Tricia Smith claimed the development would enable the National Olympic Committee to advance discussions with the IOC as part of its new process for selecting hosts for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“The signing of this Collaboration Agreement is the important next step,” said the Los Angeles 1984 rowing silver medallist.
“It is consistent with the COC’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action around sport and major event hosting and to a partnership based on community, respect and inclusivity.
“It also allows us, as the franchise-holder for the Olympic Movement in Canada under the Olympic Charter, to progress discussions with the International Olympic Committee as part of its Future Host Selection process.”
Smith added she is “looking forward to partnering to guide the important operational work required” as part of the feasibility assessment.
CPC President Marc-André Fabien added that he believes this “offers an incredible opportunity to develop a 2030 Games concept with an emphasis on generating a lasting legacy far beyond sport”.
The 2030 Games are set to be the first Winter Olympics and Paralympics awarded under the new process whereby the IOC engages in a more targeted approach with selected countries, as opposed the old bidding races.
Its Future Host Commission then identifies and proposes its preferred candidate to the Executive Board, which can then recommend the bid be put forward to a vote at an IOC Session.
Brisbane for the 2032 Summer Games became the first city to be awarded hosting rights in this way.
The IOC argues this approach helps to reduce costs for potential hosts and promotes more sustainable bids, although critics have questioned a perceived lack of transparency.
Sapporo in Japan is the frontrunner for the 2030 Winer Olympics, with Salt Lake City in the United States, a Pyrenees-Barcelona bid from Spain and a Ukrainian effort also in the mix.