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?
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?
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…