Victoria aims to build on successful world juniors

The last puck had barely hit the twine Wednesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in the IIHF world junior hockey championship before thoughts in the growing sport-hosting business turned to the next potential international events for the region.

An expression of interest was submitted before the Dec. 31 deadline by a Victoria group to host the 2022 Invictus Games. Another group submitted an expression of interest to host the 2020 Pan American Cup of cross-country running on Bear Mountain, as a precursor to hosting the 2023 IAAF world cross-country championship. The latter event is followed avidly in countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia and across Europe.

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“Bringing the 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Cup to Victoria is an important first step toward hosting the 2023 world championship, which is the ultimate prize,” said two-time Olympian Bruce Deacon, part of the Victoria bid group.

Meanwhile, the Invictus Games, created by Prince Harry, are for soldiers physically or emotionally injured in battle. They were staged at London in 2014, Orlando in 2016, Toronto in 2017 and Sydney in 2018. The Games will now go to a fixed two-year rotation with Rotterdam and The Hague hosting in 2020. The winning bid for 2022 will be announced this summer.

“We have formed a not-for-profit exploratory committee to see if we should bid,” said Victoria lawyer Peter Lawless, leader of that committee and vice-president of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

“You can’t just host a party. The legacy from the 1994 Commonwealth Games needs renewal and we feel this ticks all the boxes: We are a military town and a huge sports town with a tremendous legacy of people willing to volunteer.”

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The work has begun, added Lawless.

“This process will happen quite quickly now, leading to the [final bid process] in summer, and we need all three levels of government on board,” he said. “The 1994 Commonwealth Games proved what we can do to get Victoria on the international sports stage, and we can make some magic again.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said they will take the concept to their councils, after meeting with Lawless and the bid committee.

“I’m in,” Helps said.

“Our service people overseas fight for freedom and justice, and this is something to explore.”

Helps was also supportive of a Victoria bid as replacement host for the 2022 Commonwealth Games after Durban, South Africa, was unable to continue as host. But that idea was eventually nixed by the provincial government and the Games went to Birmingham, England.

“We continue to look for ways to get Victoria on the world stage for sport hosting and I can’t see that going away,” said Helps.

Haynes was also supportive of the idea of hosting the Invictus Games.

“Let’s test this,” he said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity and the right size and right formula. The world junior hockey championship has shown how an international sports event can benefit a region and country.”

The bid committee’s next step is to approach higher levels of government.

Although the province pledged $3.5 million toward the failed bid for the 2020 North American Indigenous Games, it balked at $400 million for the 2022 Victoria Commonwealth Games bid.

The province also said it would not hand a “blank cheque” to FIFA to make B.C. Place a venue for the 2026 soccer World Cup, while numerous other jurisdictions across the continent found the terms acceptable, as there are no shortage of cities willing to host games for the world’s biggest single-sport event to be held across Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The 2022 Invictus Games would bring 750 athletes from 20 nations, plus team support staff, families and fans, to Greater Victoria.

Keith Wells, executive director of the Greater Victoria Sport Tourism Commission, said the Victoria bid process for the Invictus Games will cost from $100,000 to $200,000.

He did not know how many other cities had submitted expressions of interest by the Dec. 31 deadline.

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