“We haven’t been in these rooms”: Indigenous leaders seek dialogue on mega sporting events as 2030 Olympic bid stalled

TORONTO, ONT – It wasn’t a secret, as a sombre mood fell over the media briefing at the BC Sports Hall of Fame on Friday morning. 

Without support from the Government of British Columbia, the dream of a 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Games held across the southern parts of the province was essentially over. Yet, leaders from the Líl̓wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, together with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee, have not closed the door on 2030 or future Games.

On Thursday, the Government of BC announced they would not support an Indigenous-led bid for the 2030 Olympics, having reviewed the bid for over a year, saying the billions of dollars in immediate costs would jeopardize the province’s “ability to address pressures facing British Columbians right now.”

The organizers estimated between $1 billion and $1.2 billion in public funding would be required to cover non-organizing committee costs, including $299 million to $375 million for renewing the venues for an additional two decades. 

However, the more significant issue on Friday was not that the Olympic dream came to a halt but that the Provincial leaders didn’t accept nor extend an invitation to consult with the First Nations on the bid. 

Instead, the decision was made without consultation, leaving Indigenous voices out of the picture as has been the case through Canada’s colonization and a continued theme throughout recent mega-sporting events awarded to Vancouver., such as the FIFA [Men’s] World cup 2026 and Invictus Games 2025. 

“We are disappointed to hear that the BC government has declined to support the Indigenous-led efforts to bring an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games back to Canada,” The Canadian Olympic Committee said in a release. “While this is not the outcome we were hoping for, there is no denying that the work done so far has been truly transformational. We have set a new precedent for putting reconciliation at the heart of major event planning in this country, bringing to life Call to Action #91 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

For the leaders on hand, including Chief Jen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the decision to not engage in meaningful dialogue was “10 steps backwards in reconciliation.”

Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow also expressed his disappointment with the Province’s decision. 

“It’s very disappointing — when the minister mentioned it wasn’t a priority, I think it’s bigger in 2030,” he said. “It’s working on reconciliation and working with the nations on the government to government to move forward, and I would really like to know where the priority is for the provincial government on reconciliation if it’s not a priority of the existing government.”

While the potential bid has not been killed,  it, in effect, is finished. However, organizers have left the door open to the Provincial and Federal Governments to re-enter dialogue on the Games. If the province ultimately opts out in finality, it would end the bid. 

World Cup and Invictus Games leave a bitter taste:

The 2030 Olympics and Paralympics may not end up coming to BC, but the province isn’t shying away from world-class sporting events like the World Cup and Invictus Games. 

Lisa Beare, BC’s minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, mentioned the two events as costs the province is already undertaking on Thursday. Yet, the Nations were not consulted on either bid, going against Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 91. 

For the 2026 World Cup host city announcement in July, organizers didn’t reach out to local Indigenous groups until the last minute. 

“We haven’t been in these rooms; we talked in the back room just about being invited last minute to the announcement of the FIFA World [Cup], and sort of feeling like they’re checking off the box saying ‘ok, you have to invite the Nations to the announcement,’” Councillor Wilson Williams, Squamish Nation told media. 

“Even being there, we didn’t feel like we were a part of the excitement in the group.”

After nearly a year of the four prominent First Nations working with local municipalities in Vancouver, Whistler, and Kamloops, as well as the COC and CPC, the bid is stalled, with little chance of ever starting again. 

Still, the process showed through the 2030 Olympic bid showed that Indigenous-led projects and voices could and should be considered as Canada continues to work towards the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

What now?

If indeed the BC 2030 bid is not saved, other bids for the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are from Sapporo, Japan, hosts of the 1972 edition, and from Salt Lake City, which hosted in 2002. While the location is yet to be determined, Salt Lake organizers have mentioned the likelihood of focusing on a 2034 bid, with the U.S. Olympic Committee keeping their priority on a successful LA 2028 Summer Olympiad.

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