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O'Reilly: failed Toronto bid can help Vancouver-Whistler



Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly had this reaction when he learned that Toronto lost its bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics to Beijing:

"I said ‘Oh’."

It’s not that the vote was a foregone conclusion, because in the weeks leading up to the July 13 vote, it appeared that Toronto was gaining on Beijing – it’s just that you can never underestimate the International Olympic Committee’s political agendas.

"I wasn’t terribly surprised, and I think the analysis afterwards that it was Beijing all along was generally pretty accurate," says O’Reilly. "The IOC has a long history of perceiving themselves as sort of agent to change."

At a previous fireside chat in Whistler, Canadian IOC delegate Dick Pound said the IOC has always looked for an altruistic angle. The IOC was the first body to bring sanctions against South Africa, and was the first to lift those sanctions with the end of Apartheid.

"They perceive themselves as having the ability to go into China and actually implement positive change," O’Reilly says.

Although he said he felt for Toronto, the announcement energized the Vancouver-Whistler bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. "What the decision does is give the 2010 bid direction, because clearly the torch has been handed over to us," he says. "We are the Canadian bid, according the Canadian Olympic Association, and our job now is to start building our bid book, to present it to B.C. communities and the IOC to see if we can get their support."

The same day that Toronto lost, the Canadian Olympic Association announced it’s full support for the Vancouver-Whistler bid.

"We remain one hundred per cent supportive of Vancouver/Whistler’s efforts, and we look forward to working with the bid group towards hosting 2010," says Michael Chambers, COA president.

This week, the provincial government through its weight behind the Vancouver-Whistler bid, announcing West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Ted Nebbeling is now the minister responsible for the Olympic bid. Nebbeling, a former mayor of Whistler, has supported the bid from the start.

The Toronto bid was the first Canadian effort since the Olympic bribery scandal emerged and the IOC introduced a number of reforms. Those reforms included adding 15 members each from national Olympic associations, sports association and athletes representatives, and forbidding IOC members to visit the bid cities.

"I know there will be opportunities for us to gather information from (the Toronto bid corporation) about what the new bid process is like, and to find out what they did well and what they feel they could have improved," says O’Reilly. "Whatever happened at the vote, it could only enhance our bid in the long run."

According to the COA, the 2008 experience will be invaluable to the 2010 experience. "There’s no teacher like experience," says Chambers.

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