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The Reconciliation Games: Feasibility team unveils concept plan for 2030 Olympics

Indigenous-led proposal would see Whistler host alpine skiing, sliding and Nordic events
N-Olympic Bid 29.24 MEGAN LALONDE
Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton at an event Tuesday, June 14 at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to unveil the concept plans for the 2030 Olympics proposed for Whistler, Vancouver and Sun Peaks.

The 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games could see events split amongst Vancouver, Whistler and Sun Peaks, according to a master plan concept unveiled June 14. 

Representatives from the Líl̓wat7ul (Li’lwat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the City of Vancouver, the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) and the Canadian Olympic Committee’s (COC) feasibility team gathered at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler Tuesday morning for an announcement painting the clearest picture yet of what an Indigenous-led Games would look like in British Columbia, ahead of a potential bid. 

The draft hosting concept almost exclusively calls for the reuse—and in some cases, a revamp—of existing venues throughout the Nations’ traditional, ancestral territories if the Olympics were to return to the province. The strategy would ensure that infrastructure “is maintained and viable for generations to come,” the plan claims.

In the Sea to Sky, Whistler Olympic Park would host biathlon, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined and para Nordic skiing events, while the Whistler Sliding Centre would welcome back bobsleigh, skeleton, and luge. Alpine skiing would return to Whistler Blackcomb’s Creekside zone, including speed events and para snowboard. Alpine skiing technical events and para alpine skiing would take place on Ptarmigan. Downtown Vancouver’s Rogers Arena and UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre would be home to Olympic hockey and the Richmond Olympic Oval would see the return of its speed skating track.

The plan also proposes a new partnership with Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, which would host snowboard and freestyle skiing events on the traditional, unceded territories of the Adams Lake, Little Shuswap Lake and Neskonlith Indian Bands. Among those events are several new disciplines added to the Winter Olympics roster since British Columbia last hosted the Games more than 12 years ago.

Sun Peaks “ticked a whole bunch of boxes,” said feasibility team member and Vancouver 2010 vice-president of sport Tim Gayda, from its workforce and accommodation supply to its north-facing slopes—“which is very, very important to us when we’re managing snow,” he explained. 

The freestyle skiing and snowboarding disciplines require six different courses, Gayda added. 

“To find six different courses coming down into two finish areas is a bit of a magical mountain to find, because [the slopes are] all different angles,” he said. “We were able to find all six courses in two stadiums on one mountain.”

All other events would take place in the Lower Mainland. Another new venue would come in the form of “a destination circle” at Vancouver’s Hastings Park, home to the PNE. Stakeholders imagine the area as an Olympic hub housing “a vibrant, festival atmosphere” complete with a temporary big air ramp; figure skating and short-track speedskating events in the Pacific Coliseum; curling in the Agrodome; a nighttime medals plaza and a cultural village.

The feasibility team expects to release a full cost breakdown of the proposed hosting plan in mid-July, spokesperson Chris Dornan said Tuesday. 

Stakeholders say reusing the numerous existing venues would likely result in reduced hosting costs compared to the budget-blowing Games of recent years, while falling in line with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new, more sustainable approach to future events. The 2030 Olympics and Paralympics would be the first mandated by the IOC to achieve net-zero emissions. 

New construction would, however, be needed to create the required Athlete Villages in each of the three municipalities. Vancouver’s village would find a home on MST Development Corp.-owned lands, according to the proposal, while Sun Peaks’ athlete accommodation would likely land on Mount Morrisey. The draft hosting plan lists Whistler’s Athlete Village site as “to be determined.” 

Gayda said officials are working closely with the RMOW and are considering a number of potential locations within the resort, one being the Whistler Golf Course driving range. Tourism Whistler is the current leaseholder for the municipally-owned land. 

“It’s [the RMOW’s] priority, in terms of looking at providing non-market housing, [to have it] next to the town, to alleviate transportation issues and things like that,” he said. “We’re hoping to sort of land on ultimately where our villages are by the end of the summer.”

‘We reached out to the COC at the same time they were reaching out to us’

The draft hosting concept unveiled Tuesday was developed by the feasibility team under the leadership of the four host Nations, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Nations, the RMOW and the City of Vancouver with the COC and CPC in December. 

The first Indigenous-led Olympic bid exploration means an equal voice at the table for the four host Nations to discuss what some have dubbed “The Reconciliation Games.” The process addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 91, while respecting both the Province of B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and the federal government’s United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, the plan points out. 

“What Indigenous-led means is when we have a dream and a passion in our community, you call the experts,” explained Squamish Nation’s Chris (Syeta’xtn) Lewis during Tuesday’s briefing. “You call the people that can help you … we reached out to the COC at the same time they were reaching out to us.”

Tewanee Joseph, in charge of Indigenous partnerships for the feasibility team, said the four host Nations will continue meeting with First Nations communities in the Sun Peaks and Kamloops areas to further discuss the potential bid, in a manner that respects each community’s respective protocols.

The release of the concept plan marks the beginning of the public engagement phase—which has already been underway in the four First Nations communities. It’s the final phase of the privately-funded process ahead of a proposed bid. The Canadian Olympic Committee will need to decide whether to proceed with a formal bid by December, before the IOC is expected to award the 2030 Games to the winning bidder in May 2023. 

During the June 15 ceremony, Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton expressed his “deep gratitude” to be a part of a collaborative bid process that he said will have significant lasting impacts. 

“This Indigenous-led project represents an exciting opportunity to build stronger relationships and stronger communities. We have the experience, expertise and learnings from the 2010 Winter Games to help make a 2030 bid even better,” he said in a release. 

“In this next phase of the project, we will be listening and learning from Whistlerites, to ensure the long-term legacy of any future Games creates strong positive impacts, especially in the areas of workforce housing, transportation and accelerating progress on our climate objectives.” 

A community open house is scheduled to take place in Whistler at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre on June 26. For more information or to participate in the public engagement process, visit gamesengagement.ca