The 2014 World Cup soccer final is today in Rio. What’s that got to do with the 20th-anniversary celebrations of the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games, to take place Aug. 23 at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence? Maybe a lot, because organizers say they want the reunion to be as much forward focused as backward looking.
Perhaps it’s time to look for the Next Big Thing.
“We did a great accomplishment [in 1994]. Let’s do more. Let’s look forward and look for new opportunities,” said Jim Reed, the former No. 2 in the Victoria Commonwealth Games organizing committee, during a recent press conference at PISE.
The tagline for the Games 20th anniversary is The Spirit Lives On.
Let’s prove it and let the spirit move us.
Here are future major sporting events Victoria could, and should, pursue:
2026 World Cup
Canada is seriously considering a bid for the 2026 World Cup, to follow up Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022. It’s a long shot, but who knows? Using the model of the 12 cities utilized for the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Victoria should be a 2026 host city if Canada wins the bid. Greater Victoria is the 15th-largest metro region in the country, but its pedigree as a soccer-loving city, which hosted the 2002 women’s FIFA U-20 World Cup and 2007 men’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, as well as several CONCACAF World Cup and Olympic qualifiers over the years, should easily move it up three slots as one of the 12 World Cup host cities for a potential Canada 2026 bid.
The nine CFL stadiums are a given as venues. There’s a certain amount of unfairness in that because, for instance, the people in Regina are mostly passionate about the other kind of football and couldn’t care less about this kind. But they have the stadium.
That leaves three other venues. There will be a demand to make Canada 2026 a coast-to-coast event, so Atlantic Canada is sure to get a venue, likely Halifax or Moncton. The prairies will be well represented with Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg, so toss in the 11th venue somewhere in Quebec or Ontario to augment Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal.
The 12th venue? Victoria, to create a West Coast hub along with B.C. Place.
A minimum 40,000-seat stadium would be required. This city erected a temporary 35,000-seater for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, so it can be done. Centennial Stadium could be tastefully enlarged to 40,000, or perhaps a site in Langford, with an attractive 15,000-seat stadium left behind post-World Cup for a metro region which by 2026 would be over 400,000 people.
Rugby World Cup
Canada has aspirations in rugby. The International Rugby Board, looking beyond the traditional after England 2015 to fresh markets, awarded the 2019 World Cup to Japan.
Canada and the World Cup seem destined to meet at some point. Why not 2023?
Victoria is the spiritual home of rugby in Canada and home to Rugby Canada. It would be inconceivable for this city not to be one of the World Cup host venues.
Tennis is so hot right now in Canada, you need oven gloves just to hold a racquet. With Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard in the respective men’s and women’s world top-10 rankings — and Canada a 2013 Davis Cup semifinalist with Raonic and Wimbledon doubles champion Vasek Posposil — the Davis and Federation Cup ties Canada hosts will be highly anticipated events.
Canada’s recent Davis Cup ties have been held at UBC’s 4,500-seat Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. But PISE CEO Robert Bettauer, who is as well plugged into Canadian tennis as anybody in the country, believes Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre would provide a larger and better venue for Canada’s games with its seating bowl providing an ideal setting for international tennis.
Market forces governing the games we play often compel sports to retrench. The era of the Canadian men’s curling championships being only the domain of NHL-sized rinks ended this spring when 6,400-seat Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops hosted the 2014 Brier. Even then, it looked sparsely attended.
With the move to medium-sized rinks, Victoria would seem well positioned to host a future Brier. The two recent men’s curling championships and Scotties national women’s championship at the 7,006-seat Memorial Centre indicate organization and crowds wouldn’t be an issue on Blanshard.
The WHL is next set to host the major-junior hockey championship in 2016 and 2019. Victoria should bid for both. If you don’t get 2016, then you’ve laid the groundwork for 2019. It’s hard to imagine the Canadian Hockey League not wanting to place its big show in Victoria at some point. The bonus? The Victoria Royals get an automatic berth as host. That’s one way to get around that whole WHL playoff thing.
World Figure Skating Championships
With the large crowds that turned out to the Memorial Centre for the 2006 Skate Canada International and 2011 Canadian championships, and annually for Stars on Ice, it’s clearly evident Victoria is a skating town. Hosting the worlds seems the next logical step.
An outdoor world championship
Victoria produces so many Summer Olympians for Canada, it could almost field its own team. What makes this region’s environment so ideal as a training venue would also seem to make it the same for hosting a world championship or Grand Prix/World Cup stop in sports such as triathlon, rowing, cycling (road or mountain bike) or cross-country running.