Richmond could very well play a part in any potential bid to host the 2030 Olympics, but discussions are at a very premature stage.
That’s the assertion of Mayor Malcolm Brodie, when asked Tuesday by the Richmond News about the possibility of the Olympic Oval being repurposed to once again host the Games’ long track speed skating.
On Friday, four B.C. First Nations - Lil’wat, Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh – announced they had invited the municipalities of Whistler and Vancouver to join them to explore “the feasibility of an Indigenous-led Olympic Games."
Despite hosting the long track at the $178 million, purpose-built Oval back in 2010, and being one of three “venue” cities along with Whistler and Vancouver, Richmond was conspicuous by its absence at last week’s press conference.
However, Brodie told the News that there has been “communication” between the city and the parties involved in making the 2030 bid, including the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).
But he cautioned that any talks taking place – either between the aforementioned parties or with the City of Richmond – are at a “very formative and…very early stage.”
“It sounded over the weekend that the talks were well along; in fact, they’re not. They’ve only really just begun,” said Brodie.
“(There has been) a minimal amount of discussion and the whole scenario is at a very early stage. We knew nothing about the press conference until Friday. We were not included.
“We would be open to discussion. Whether it comes to anything or not is impossible to say at this moment.”
What Richmond would have to consider, said Brodie, “is the feasibility of it all. If we were to move forward, we would have to have a notion of what the applicants have in mind.
“And to measure the feasibility, we would need to have it defined what they’re looking for?”
Brodie said Richmond could be asked, if at all, to be anything from a full venue city, as it was in 2010, down to the COC “simply occupying the Oval as a facility, just for the skating and nothing else.”
“Once we know what they have in mind, then we can do an analysis and a business case,” added the mayor.
Another “important aspect,” he pointed out, would be “public consultation.”
Being a venue city in 2010 “gave us the whole cultural experience of the Olympics, from the O-Zone to the celebrations at the Oval and city hall,” said Brodie, while comparing being a “venue” as opposed to just hosting the skating at the Oval.
“But it’s a long process and we’re only at the very beginning right now.”
As for the re-purposing of the Oval – now a community facility and a hub for various high performance sports - back to an Olympic long track speed skating venue, the mayor said the building was designed to consider that very possibility.
“As we were building it, our long term plan is what you see today,” he explained.
“But we (left) the mechanics underground so that, theoretically, if the opportunity arose for some very large event, we could re-purpose the facility somewhat efficiently to have the long track back in there.”
Brodie did caution that it did take “another number of million dollars more to return the Oval to community use” after the 2010 Games – something that would likely need to be factored in, if the venue was to be used for the 2030 Olympics.
“If we were to go with the Olympics again, (the organizers) would need the building for a certain amount of time before it,” he added.
“There would be massive disruption to the business of the Oval, in terms the dozens of uses it has now for the community.
“It’s not a white elephant, it’s an integral part of our community for high performance sports. The users of the Oval would have to be consulted.”
Tim Gayda, vice-president of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games, is currently drafting a master plan for the COC’s bid for 2030.
He told the Vancouver Sun over the weekend that they were “not looking to build anything new.”
Gayda added that the Oval “was designed to be able to transition back into two 400-metre speed-skating rinks.”
One stumbling block to Richmond playing a part in any 2030 Games bid is its distinctly frosty relationship with one of the First Nations involved, the Musqueam.
The city has stopped making land acknowledgments at public meetings and events due to it being involved in on-going lawsuits over land claims made by the Musqueam.
However, Brodie said it was “too early to say” if the two parties’ history will become a factor in any negotiations.
The Japanese city of Sapporo is the current front-runner to host the 2030 Games. Salt Lake City, Utah (host of the 2002 Games) and Barcelona, Spain are also in the running.
The 2022 Olympic Winter Games begin Feb. 4 in Beijing, China. The 2026 Winter Games will take place in Milan-Cortina, Italy.