By Andrew Warshaw
March 15 – Twenty-four hours after the Canadian government threw its support behind the country co-hosting the 2026 World Cup with the United States and Mexico, the bid suffered a blow with the news that Vancouver, one of North America’s most popular tourist venues, is being dropped as a candidate city.
The timing of the announcement could not have been more awkward for the United 2026 bid, with bid books due to be delivered to FIFA this Friday and rivals Morocco reported to be closing the gap on the favourites.
Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton had been identified as potential candidates but Vancouver’s involvement was scuppered when local leadership officials said they wanted guarantees over costs before signing an agreement with the United 2026 bid committee.
“We submitted our second bid last night and this morning we received notification that (United 2026) have not accepted the bid,” Tourism Minister Lisa Beare told reporters Wednesday.
Beare said the province “couldn’t agree to terms that would put British Columbians at risk of shouldering potentially huge and unpredictable costs.’
“So far, the bid committee has rejected our requests to clarify how much British Columbians could be expected to contribute. And they have declined to negotiate with the province regarding the concerns we raised,” she added.
“There are very large concerns. One of them is FIFA’s ability to change the stadium agreement at any point which adds unknown risk and unknown cost to the taxpayer.”
Opponents accused local authorities of scoring a massive own goal.
“This bid, which shares costs across the continent, was a fabulous opportunity to promote British Columbia as part of the most-watched sporting event in the world,” said one rival politician, Jas Jihal. “Other provinces have come to arrangements but the BC NDP is the lone jurisdiction who has failed to come to the table.”
Johal said the economic benefit to British Colombia of hosting the last World Cup was estimated to be about $118 million, all from an initial investment of $2 million.
The decision to ditch Vancouver will be particularly disappointing – and somewhat embarrassing – for Victor Montagliani, president of CONCACAF and a Vancouver resident.
He declined to comment but Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson told local media: “Major sporting events often have challenges around costs and managing financial risk; however, the City was all-in and hopeful that the federal and provincial governments would be able to arrive at a fair deal.”
Vancouver Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi said the area would be missing out on a great opportunity to showcase itself on the world stage once again. “It might be different if we had a Women’s World Cup and it was a failure, if we hosted the Olympics and it was a failure,” he said.
B.C. Soccer executive director Jason Elligott echoed such sentiments saying missing out on the World Cup would be terrible for British Columbia.
“It is very disappointing that the World Cup could potentially be hosted by Canada, USA and Mexico and for B.C. not to be a part of it,” said Elligott. “There are a lot of opportunities in hosting an event like that, including exposing millions of people to our sport … and bringing the world to our city.”
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