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B.C. groups, including First Nations, explore bid for 2030 Winter Olympics; Vancouver Island would host some events

Island communities will be part of the proposal as a partnership was announced Friday to explore B.C. making a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.

The partnership will be led by Vancouver, Whistler and the ­Lilwat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations but with events proposed across the province to spread out the ­potential benefits.

“The 2030 planners are ­looking at the feasibility of ­hosting an Olympic and ­Paralympic event in Greater Victoria,” confirmed Keith Wells, executive director of the Greater Victoria Sport Tourism Commission.

It is the first Indigenous co-led bid for an Olympic Games.

“Preliminary discussions with stakeholders, ­including the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations, have been very ­positive,” Wells said about the potential Greater Victoria involvement.

On hand for the ­announcement, made in ­Vancouver, was four-time ­Paralympic wheelchair-­basketball medallist Richard Peter of Duncan, one of Canada’s greatest Indigenous athletes.

“I think this is a big part of reconciliation, of moving ­forward,” Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow told reporters Friday.

“It’s going to be so exciting to take this step forward with all of us. And, hopefully, we can be successful and show a better Games than 2010 [when Vancouver last hosted the Winter Games].”

Lilwat Chief Dean ­Nelson said: “We have been at this place before in the 2010 ­Olympics where we showcased our ­presence and our cultures respectively. The difference between 2010 [and 2030] is that we were an invitee and today we are a big part of the exploratory group to explore a bid for the 2030 Olympics.”

The Canadian Olympic ­Committee is on board.

“We believe there is incredible potential for a transformative Olympic and Paralympic Games in the region and support a process that explores feasibility in accordance with First Nations protocol, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Report Call to Action 91, the United Nations Declarations on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples and B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said COC president Tricia Smith.

The event would be unique in another way in that the ­venues could be spread around the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Interior.

“People like the idea of a province-wide Winter Games,” said Wells.

A decision on whether to submit a formal bid to the International Olympic Committee is expected in the fall of 2022. The vote on where the 2030 Winter Games will be held will take place in 2023 during an IOC ­session in Mumbai, India.

Venue details for the B.C. bid are in the preliminary stage and were not provided.

Island proponents, ­however, have indicated an ­interest in curling being held at ­Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria and cross-country skiing on Mount Washington. Opening-round group hockey games could also be spread around the province.

“It’s exciting and would be awesome,” said Keith Dagg, who has organized world men’s ­curling championships at the Memorial Centre.

“These kind of events are important. Expo 86 and the 2010 Vancouver Winter ­Olympics, with the 1994 Victoria ­Commonwealth Games sandwiched in between, helped put the province on the world map.”

Original 2030 bid proponent John Furlong, who headed the 2010 Olympic ­organizing ­committee, has spent the year meeting with regional ­representatives, including those on the Island.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog was enthusiastic after the meeting last summer between Furlong and mid-Island officials. Krog said at the time the Olympics promote world peace and will boost the economy and help open up B.C. to the world again, noting the province is increasingly reliant on tourism: “Give me a reason not to take advantage of this opportunity. It is positive on every level and makes sense on every level.”

Furlong, who was Nanaimo regional director of parks and recreation from 1979 to 1987, added: “The idea of a regional Olympic Games is resonating.”

Other jurisdictions around the world that have indicated a desire to host the 2030 Winter Olympics include Salt Lake City, Utah; Sapporo, Japan; and ­Barcelona-Pyrenees, Spain. Some reports have Sapporo, which previously hosted in 1972, as the early favourite.

The Games are scheduled for Feb. 8-24, 2030.

— With files from Canadian Press