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Pique'n'yer interest

The 2008 that might have been



Before Vancouver got the go-ahead to officially bid for the 2010 Winter Games, another Canadian bid was in play. Toronto bid to host the 2008 Summer Games, losing out to Beijing, China for reasons that can best be described as political. Now the International Olympic Committee is threatening to delay some events in 2008 unless Beijing can get its air pollution under control, making Toronto’s smog look pretty good by comparison.

There were plans in Toronto to bid for the 2012 Games, but they were put on the skids after the 2010 bid was successful. It will likely be another 20 years before Toronto will get another chance.

That’s too bad, because Toronto really could have used the Games and all the federal and provincial money that would have been pumped into the city’s decaying infrastructure.

While I have no doubt that the 2010 Games will be hailed as a success, financial or otherwise, I have always felt that they were unnecessary by virtue of the simple fact that Canada just hosted a Winter Games in 1988 — just 15 years before we won the bid to host 2010.

We already have a skating oval, ski jumps, and a sliding centre in Calgary, and really have no need to duplicate those facilities. Also, most national teams will continue to train out of Calgary and Canmore because it’s more expensive to live and train in Vancouver and Whistler, and because Alberta has a lot of oil money these days to invest in sports and athletes. Other than a few new ice sheets for hockey, there’s little in the way of facilities that Vancouver and Sea to Sky actually needed.

Halfway across the country, Toronto is having a tough time making ends meet. The population of Greater Toronto is already more than five million and climbing, as the city absorbs more than half of all immigrants and refugees coming to Canada — along with all the social costs of providing for seniors and the poor that were downloaded onto the GTA by the provincial government.

The city is in desperate need of sports facilities, social housing, new investment in public transportation and roads, and all the things that would have come as a result of hosting the Summer Games. The federal government would have matched funds with the provincial government to take care of a lot of those issues, and the city would have been better off in the long run.

Having just visited the city I was struck by how well Toronto still runs, despite the fact that it has had to do everything on its own in the last few decades without much assistance from the province or the rest of Canada. The buses and subways run on time, the streets are clean, graffiti gets painted over, and millions of people have jobs and homes.