Sports fans in Vancouver have been let down many times, so maybe today’s decision by the United Bid Committee to drop Vancouver from its bid to host the 2026 World Cup in North America shouldn’t be surprising.
But after months spent as part of the proposal to host one of the world’s biggest events, British Columbia was axed from the group, reportedly because Premier John Horgan and his NDP government refused to sign over a “blank cheque” to FIFA.
There are other rumours about why the province ultimately won’t be part of the United Bid Committee, but those have been shot down by the NDP.
The government maintains it was because it didn’t want to be played by the governing body of soccer and charge the taxpayer “potentially huge and unpredictable costs”.
And yes, we can definitely agree that FIFA is about as shady as Christian Grey. “If you love something, never find out how it was made” is how John Oliver starts out his 13-minute diatribe on FIFA.
But Vancouver not joining Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal as a host Canadian city is a decision that may come back to haunt the NDP.
The plan was backed by both Vancouver city council and the federal government, but Horgan and Co. were concerned about a clause in the agreement that enabled FIFA to change the terms of the bid after it was approved.
There is one difference that separates Vancouver from the other Canadian cities: the other cities’ provinces don’t own their proposed stadiums the way British Columbia owns B.C. Place. That means that B.C. would be on the hook for renovations to the stadium, including switching up the turf field for grass.
But will that change the way B.C.ers look at this decision, when no other Canadian cities have even slightly balked at the notion of hosting, and when other levels of government have signed off on it?
Probably not. Especially considering that the 2015 Women’s World Cup (hosted partly in Vancouver) brought around $80 million in economic activity to the city, and that soccer is at the height of its popularity in the province right now, with the Vancouver Whitecaps posting record attendance numbers.
And this won’t have any effect on the MLS season, given that it’s slated to shut down during the World Cup anyway.
International tournaments in other sports like rugby are also garnering attention, as recent games between Canada and Uruguay, as well as the Sevens tournament, have had no problem in bringing packed crowds to the city’s favourite dome. In all likelihood, Vancouver hosting a couple of games (Canada is slated for 10 games if the bid wins) would bring many millions of dollars to the city.
What was the province even doing in spending taxpayer funds (estimated to be in the neighbourhood of $365 million) to improve the stadium and add the retractable roof if it wasn’t angling to host world-class events?
Of course, this is a different government than the Liberal team that presided over that renovation. And it’s the same Liberals that are going to bring up the abandoned World Cup bid constantly, especially if North America ends up beating out Morocco for the rights to host the tournament.
Yes, FIFA is no doubt a shady organization, but soccer is the world’s most popular sport and one the city has been trying to grow. The World Cup is one of the biggest events in the world, and if Vancouver ends up on the outside looking at the rest of Canada hosting games, it’ll be tough for the NDP (and the people of British Columbia) to validate.More