Would An Olympics In Toronto Help Our City?

Or would it result in mayhem for the next ten years?

With the 2014 Winter Olympiad now complete, COC President Marcel Aubut has gone on record saying that Canada should consider putting together a bid for a future games.

Toronto is going to be mentioned, as it’s the biggest city in Canada, and has never held the games.

Some Torontonians think an Olympic Games would ruin the city, and some think it would help build infrastructure that we so desperately need.

What do you think?

Toronto96

Back in 1987, my father and some of his ski buddies decided that it would be more economical to purchase a small home in Park City, Utah, and ski there every year, than to continue spending money on accommodations at ski resorts across the world.

Park City, Utah, was home to some of the most underrated ski resorts on the planet, and to people who frequented it, this was a “best-kept secret.”

I had the good fortune of skiing in Park City as a child and into my young adulthood, starting in 1988.  Call me spoiled, but don’t call me untruthful!

1988 was when I also became obsessed with this thing known as the “Olympic Games.”  As a child, I was fascinated by every country in the world, coming together, to compete on ONE games, in ONE location.  There was nothing else like it in the world.

I remember asking my father, “Do you think Park City could host the Olympic Games?”  He told me, “It’s just a matter of time.”

In 1995, the IOC awarded the 2002 Olympic Winter Games to Salt Lake City, Utah (let’s face it – the events were all outside Salt Lake City, but it was the ‘hub’ city), and seven years of waiting was finally over!  I had hoped and dreamed that what I considered “my second home” would eventually host the games, and I couldn’t imagine being 22-years-old when they would take place!

So, was it everything I had hoped for, and more?

Not quite…

In my humble opinion, the 2002 Olympics, mainly held in Park City, Utah, absolutely ruined the town as residents knew it.  My father sold the house in 2003, and we planted new roots in the modest and little-known Driggs, Idaho, which is now the new best-kept secret in North America!

I’ve heard rumours that in the mid-80’s, the mayor of Aspen, Colarado told the Mayor of Park City, Utah, “Don’t let what happen to Aspen, happen to Park City.”

Well it happened, and some might say the transformation was even worse.

As a kid, I used to walk up and down historic Main Street in Park City, popping in and out of t-shirt shops, pizza pubs, antique stores, places that sold trinkets and souvenirs, and of course – ski shops.

Over time, those little stores turned over, and when I went to Park City for the last time in 2003, almost every store on Main Street was selling fur coats, diamonds, time shares, or real estate.

Ski areas like Park City Ski Resort and The Canyons completely bastardized their facilities, by adding thousands and thousands of condominiums, hotels, time shares, and rentals.

Prices of everything from a lift ticket to a cob of corn went through the roof.

From 1995, when the Olympics were awarded to Utah, up until 2002, when they were held, we watched as every conceivable aspect of the city changed.

We used to take the ski-lift at Deer Valley up over a rock-face, and over seven years, every square inch of that rock-face was turned into luxury homes.

At 8-years-old, I thought I wanted the Olympics.  At 15-years-old when it was announced, I was excited.  But by 2003, I was like my father – disgusted by what the city had become.

Now having said that, the city did benefit from massive improvements in infrastructure, as did basically the entire state.

The 2-lane highway that you’d take from the Salt Lake International Airport became a 12-lane super-highway!  Not that it was really needed, since I don’t ever remember being stuck in traffic.

But the state of Utah, Salt Lake City, and Park City all benefitted significantly from new roads and highways, increased public utilities, transportation, and other infrastructure that moved these areas well into the future, and beyond their years.

So let’s swing the conversation to Toronto, shall we?

Does Toronto need an Olympics?  Personally, I don’t think so.

I’m not going to suggest that Toronto is some precious ski-town like Park City, Utah, whose humble beginnings as a mining town in the 1800’s have been raped by the corporate machine.  But do we really need an Olympiad here in Toronto?

Toronto has the Pan-Am Games in 2015, but nobody asked for that.  Nobody cares.

Show me one Torontonian that is in any way excited for the Pan Am Games.  Most people don’t even know what they are, and probably half of this city’s residents, if polled, wouldn’t know they’re coming here next summer.

Olympics are usually the dream of two egomaniacs, one in politics, and one in business, who need to create a legacy for themselves, and put their name on something.

The 2015 Pan Am Games won’t add any infrastructure to Toronto.  No new highways, no roads, no transit – nothing.  In fact, it’s been suggested that driving downtown should be banned during the Pan-Am Games, so that athletes and volunteers can get to events more easily.

Forget that.  I live here.  I work here.  I pay taxes here.  I’ll be damned if somebody is going to tell me I can’t drive my car, because an event I don’t want, and nobody asked for, is being held, while nobody watches…

Are the Olympics any different?

I have to think so.  The Olympics are the pinnacle of sport.  The Pan Am Games are like what Go-Bots were to Transformers in the 1980’s…

Having said that, even if the Olympics were held in Toronto, I probably wouldn’t attend a single event.  I think a lot of people will disagree with this sentiment, but I feel that in 2014, live sporting events are redundant.

In the mid-80’s, you often had to go to Maple Leaf Gardens to see the Leafs play, since only about 30-40 of the 82 games were televised.  In 2014, every game is on TV, in crystal-clear high-definition, with instant replays, multiple camera angles, close-ups, and zooms.

With the recent innovations like PVR, I can now watch a 3-hour sporting event in 50 minutes, while fast-forwarding through intermissions, commercials, and stoppages in play.  For anybody with a busy schedule, perhaps that trumps the 3-hour game, and 1-hour travel time.

And it’s not like the atmosphere at the ACC is a major draw.  The people in the lower bowl spend more time talking about mergers and acquisitions than about the teams that are playing.

So if I wouldn’t attend the Olympics, then why would I want it to come to Toronto?  Why would anybody want it to come to Toronto?

Well, I guess I’m convinced that the only way we will ever see the necessary infrastructure built in Toronto is for a reason other than…….logic.  And necessity.

The gridlock at City Hall has been ongoing for the entire tenure of Rob Ford, but it dates back further than that.  David Miller had the whole Toronto Island Bridge/Tunnel flip-flop, among other notable infrastructure fiascos.

Read Marcus Gee’s column in the Globe & Mail this week about how Toronto “scored” with the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

Gee writes: “The report estimates that governments need to spend an extra $1-billion a year to fill the city’s infrastructure gap by 2035.”

I know I’ve been writing about the same topic on my blog a lot in the past few months, but I can’t help it.  It’s like watching a very slow train wreck, and seeing it all happen, piece by piece, with the entire thing being so incredibly preventable.  I feel like that is how we’ll look back on this city in a decade.

It’s sad to suggest that the only way this city moves forward is by forcing itself to prepare for a monumental event like the Olympics, but maybe it’s come to that?

Of course, an Olympic bid would invite even more scandal into a city that took a lot of lumps in 2013 with Mayor Ford.

The International Olympic Committee might be the most corrupt organization on the planet, and no Olympics in recent memory has been immune from controversy.

Both Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000) rounded up all the homeless people when the IOC came for a visit.

The 2002 games in Salt Lake City were awarded after millions of dollars in bribes were handed out to IOC delegates, resulting in the expulsion of ten members.

At least one IOC member tried to sell his vote on the eve of the 2012 Summer Olympic bids, where London, England eventually prevailed.

And the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia were likely the most corrupt Olympics of all-time.  They were reported to cost $60 Billion, but stories keep popping up, suggesting that they only cost $20-$30 Billion, and the rest was pocketed by politicians, and those that contracts were awarded to.

Is Toronto really ready for this?

On January 20th of this year, Toronto city council voted not to submit a bid for the 2024 Olympics, citing that it could cost $50-$60 Million just for the bid alone.

That means we’re safe for now, but as I said at the onset, Marcel Aubut’s recent comments are bound to strike up conversation, and after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, the idle chatter might turn into serious debate.

In a perfect world, Toronto would be led by capable individuals, with good ideas, who can move this city forward, and the infrastructure we so desperately need would be job-one.

But in reality, it might take a major catalyst like an Olympic Games to get the ball rolling.

Sochi, Russia was a swamp in the middle of a forest before it was turned into a headquarters for an Olympic Games.  If they can accomplish that in the middle of nowhere, can’t we build a goddam subway in Canada’s biggest city?

If I had a vote, I’d say “no” to an Olympics in Toronto.

But at least if the vote went against my wishes, I’d know the city would be building infrastructure for the next ten years…

21 Comments

Post A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. John says:

    Olympic games, no way. Haven’t tax payers been ripped off enough? And to think we have idiots that think Toronto is a world class city. My god. Toronto is a world class toxic city. Anyway, the Olympic comitty is crooked. Toronto will spend the next 30 yrs paying it off, on top of the spam scam games. Then taxes will go up again.

  2. Rob Fjord says:

    David, good point about sports being redundant, i still cant figure out how they even survive at all, 160 baseball games per team per year -who watches that crap! and why do people care if a bunch of men most of which are not even from ontario let alone toronto wear a blue jersey and score the same old goals we have seen a million times before, for the maple leafs. how many shoot outs do you need to see before you are satisfied!? cat videos on youtube are more interesting.

    have the olympics ever made money directly or indirectly for anyone? maybe LA in 84, and i believe it was mostly a private enterprise. olympics are boring and expensive….rubbish!

  3. ScottyP says:

    F**k the Olympics. (We’re a PanAm City!)

  4. heineken says:

    i wonder if those parasites who call themselves “PARKING AUTHORITY”, would stop issuing tickets during the olympics? Sure they would. This city is so nice and polite and friendly and everyone seems to smile while they get shafted.
    Sorry about my rant. Okay, everyone hold hands together and sing along…..

  5. DavidP says:

    You forgot about the Union Pearson Express, west Don Lands, and Corktown Common… I’m sure those would’ve eventually happened anyway but the games were a great excuse to get stuff done.

  6. Joe Q. says:

    David writes: “The 2015 Pan Am Games won’t add any infrastructure to Toronto. No new highways, no roads, no transit – nothing. “

    I don’t think this is true — isn’t the Union-Pearson direct train link (for all its flaws) being built primarily timed for the Pan Am Games?

    1. BillyO says:

      Yes that is correct. While not perfect, the UP Express will be completed in time for the pan ams, as well as most of the improvements to Union Station. Also, the West Donlands revitalization and creation of Corktown Common (the best city park in Toronto) would not have happened had we not gone through with the games, which when completed will fill the void between Riverside and the Distillery and create a new mixed used community that benefits the elderly, students, lower income folks and yuppies. There was also supposed to be an East Bayfront/Cherry St LRT but that’ll have to wait once the ‘revenue tools’ (if Wynne gets a majority) kick in.

      As for the Olympics, I’m all for them – it’d be a net gain for the city overall, but the chance to do if is 2024 or 2028 when surely a North American city will be granted one, as the continent would be way over due (last was 1996 in Atlanta, which Toronto was screwed out of). As far as I am concerned the window of opportunity is then. If it doesn’t happen might as well forget them altogether after that.

  7. Paully says:

    How long did it take Montreal to pay their Olympic bill?

  8. Kyle says:

    We already have huge world class International events (Caribana, Pride, TIFF, Fashion Week, etc) that don’t cost the city a fortune to run and bring huge net positive economic benefit and raise our City’s status on the world stage. Even though that idiot Ford keeps trying to kill them. I’d be in favour of the city throwing a little more money and support behind those events where the economics are already proven, rather than mortgaging the future for the Olympics. And any analysis about infrastructure, should really be based on the fact that it is sorely needed, not because of some one-time sporting event.

  9. jeff316 says:

    The Olympics have ballooned. Compared to back when Montréal hosted the number of events have increased by more than one third. This makes it more and more difficult for a city of our size to handle the Olympics. There have been a few of our size to host the summer games since the Montréal games – Atlanta sticks out (and Sydney and Athens are the same size, but probably vastly different to Toronto) – but by and large the summer games have been and will be hosted by massive cities – Moscow, LA, Seoul, Beijing, London, Rio, Tokyo.

    I see the benefit of the games in terms of using it to spur infrastructure development, but I doubt the costs would be worth it or that the Olympics would work well in a city like ours. We’re more akin to a midwestern city like Minneapolis than any of those and that would affect our ability to host the games.

    (Also, I’m no skiier but that corner where Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Montana meet is just such an awe-inspiring part of North America. Awesome.)

    1. @ Jeff316

      What’s really interesting about the Idaho/Wyoming area is that Grand Targhee Ski Resort (Idaho) is right on the border of Wyoming. So you can drive from Driggs, Idaho, along Highway 33, into Wyoming, to Jackson Hole Ski Resort (Wyoming), which only takes about 30 minutes. Two of the best resorts in the midwest, 30 minutes apart, in DIFFERENT STATES!

      You’d think they would be similar, right? Not at all. They are on opposite sides of the same mountain range, so while Grand Targhee has the best snow in North America (a fact – Google it) and is often sunny, and wide open, Jackson Hole is darker, colder, icier, and there’s a lot more bowls, chutes, moguls, and tree skiing. Jackson Hole is more than double the size of Targhee as well.

      As for the idea of “states meeting,” check out “The Four Corners” where Utah/Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico meet. It’s a tourist attraction where you can basically play Twister with your body and be in all four states at the same time.

      1. jeff316 says:

        That sounds like Jackson Hole to me. We went one October and couldn’t believe how nice the temperature was, and then about 30 minutes later it warms to intense summer heat, only to cool to near winter temps another two hours later. And then that night there was torrential rain. Bananas. But awesome.

        The proximity is so cool. Grand Teton. Yellowstone. Jackson Hole. Six national forests and a wildlife refuge within a two hour drive. Just about an hour and a bit northwest you have the Centennial Valley in Montana which is probably one of the most remote and underpopulated places in the lower 48. And you’re only a five hour drive from Salt Lake City which isn’t as sleepy as people would make it out to be. I gotta stop going on about it since we’ve only been once and that was four years ago. We had a great time but didn’t truly appreciate how unique it all was. If anyone goes out that way, do that area first and anything else (e.g. SLC) last.

        1. @ Jeff316

          Another hidden gem is Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

          It’s basically on the Washington border, and is about an eight hour drive from our place in Driggs. I believe we stayed one night in Montana on the way.

          It’s in the middle of nowhere, but there’s this massive, beautiful lake, and it’s reminiscent of certain spots in Vancouver.

          Man, there are so many hidden gems in the midwest.

          Moab, Utah? I was there when I was about 8-years-old, then again at about 17 after thinking I’d never end up back there. Then in 2010, I took my now-wife when we were just dating, and she went on a 6-hour hike with me in 109-degree heat, along jagged rock-face. The next day, I took her rapelling in St. George, Utah. Seeing her dangling from a rope, 200-feet above a cliff, just because I asked her to – that’s when I knew she was “the one.”

  10. Pete says:

    “But in reality, it might take a major catalyst like an Olympic Games to get the ball rolling”. This is what I find the most galling. Why is it only when some spectacle is planned that our politicians can actually get infrastructure built? Why are OUR needs ignored until the Pan Am/Olympic Games/Expo circus comes to town, and why do we let politicians get away with it? I’m starting to think all infrastructure planning and building should be handled by an independent body of professionals and removed from the clutches of our politicians, with dedicated tax revenue to fund it. At least then we’ll have knowledgeable people making the best decisions and not pandering to get reelected, or scrapping existing plans just to satisfy their monumental ego.

  11. Alex says:

    I’m a bit pro-Olympics, but because I’m an optimist and hope we would organize them properly and not fall victim to corruption and poor planning (going with the lowest bidder is often much worse than going with the highest). If an olympics gets the feds to cough up a few billion for a downtown relief line and to fix up the gardiner, then maybe it would be worth it. I could see us turning Ontario Place into an Olympic park, that in the future becomes a high-level sport training facility, and the atheletes village could become much needed TCHC housing. The Ex could open during the Olympics and run a big “Olympic fair” that focuses on sport and encouraging fitness and healthy activity. Toronto could do something unique with the Torch run (not sure what) that encourages local people to get out and get fit. We could make it so teams that win the various GTA sports tournaments that year get tickets for the Olympic sporting event that corresponds to their sport. I could see us doing lots of cool stuff to make the Olympics worth it.

  12. Phil says:

    I would look at what happened with previous olimpics:

    – Most facilities are abandoned
    – Overbuilt facilities
    – One country went bankrupt after aquiring too much debt building facilities: Greece

    People that do not stop and think will say yes to anything, people that stop and think will say yes to some, no to some, choose wisely froo the future instead of being emotional or populist.

    European countries that chose Football World/European cup had much more to gain than by organizing olimpics. Lots of Football fans with already existing stadiums, and some that could be upgraded

    I do not know what Canada should organize, besides winter olympics….
    Maybe an internation Expo…?

    Panam Games rea being organized, off course we are going to overspend as any organizer does, but at least is not a monster of an organization like Olympics. I like he fact that Hamilton and The don river area will be improved because of that, industrial areas that would take decades to improve without forced development.
    Look at what happened to the Lisbon industrial area where the Expo 98 was organized, it was contaminated area and now is one of the most beautiful areas of Lisbon, a mix of commercial, outdoor/green, residential space with a transit hub.

  13. Weirdy says:

    Olympics in Toronto? Yeah right.
    If you haven’t noticed, any kind of initiative to do any kind of anything in Toronto, meets serious opposition. The amount of people that oppose(d) things like expansion of spadina expressway (classic), panam games, building then selling then expanding the 407, toronto casino, airport expansion, building of sports arenas and etc, that it is surprising that anything at all gets done in this city.

    I wonder what Olivia Chow has to say about Olympics in Toronto.

  14. Phil says:

    David Miller approved the city transit plan that took years to plan, that was Ford to build and Rob Ford made us lose millions in project cancellations. delays, and made decisions wthout planning.

    Same he wanted to do with the Don River waterfront Project, cancel everything , make decisions without planning, like , build build build without green space , and without delays, build everything in the shortest time possible instead, as planned in stages in order not to swamp the market.

    David, How would you feel if Rob For plan of building tons of Condos as fast as possible on the Don River waterfront would go forward? nice planning, isn’t it? very bright… what a genius….
    Thousands of condos on the market sitting empty, without much green space around for sale, just to tell everyone he put millions on city coffers… brilliant…
    Subway on sheppard, damn, an half empty subway is much more important than a relief line.

    Toronto does not have plan for the future, so lets make studies, approve projects on David miller mandate, but hold on…. I want my own project without planning and studies… brilliant…

    1. Schmidtz says:

      learn to speak English.

  15. Den says:

    Toronto can’t even build a subway system so how could they be expected to host the Olympics? haha. But yeah, we don’t need it. Let them sponge off another city.

  16. Brad says:

    Good article David. I’m a fan of the Olympics, or rather a fan of watching the results of such dedication from the athletes, the Olympic event itself is a big question for me–cost, grotesque cost in some cases if Russia’s is even remotely accurate, money spent by host countries that could be put to much better use to improve daily life for their own people, human rights issues etc. I love Toronto, we have enormous infrastructure challenges let alone forging ahead on issues to move the city forward making it an even better, modern city, hosting the Olympics would force progress but I’d rather we just care enough about the city to pay up, focus, FIND SOME CONSENSUS and do the work–minus the event.
    There’s lots of interesting development happening before the Pan Am Games though yes it’s a pretty low key event….not to be a negative nelly but we have lots on our plate, I fear pursuing an Olympic bid, and the multi-million dollar cost of just submitting the bid, would be biting off way more than we can chew. Let’s just care enough to pay up, deal with the issues in Toronto and make the city better.

TWEETS