A packed house at the University of Victoria watches the opening ceremonies at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. The region is trying to land the Games for 2022, but at least one municipality is reluctant to support the bid. Photo courtesy University of Victoria

UPDATE: Province will not fund Victoria’s Commonwealth Games bid

Bid committee chair David Black ‘terribly disappointed’ with turn of events

Despite his best efforts, Victoria 2022 Commonwealth Games bid committee chair David Black couldn’t convince B.C. Finance Minister Carole James that backing the city’s bid was a sound business idea.

The NDP decided that now is not the time to provide $400 million toward the cost of the Games, nor agree to cover any shortfalls that might arise out of staging this international multi-sport event.

“While we appreciate the energy and passion of the bid committee, we cannot make a commitment to support the bid through direct finding, nor can we provide a financial shortfall guarantee,” James said in a statement. “We have analyzed the bid committee’s work and see that too many details remain unknown to fully understand the costs, obligations and risks associated with hosting such a large-scale event.”

Black, a key member of Victoria’s 1994 Games committee, had assembled a team of movers and shakers from the city to help bolster the bid. But in the end, the decision to support the bid came down to timing and risk, he said.

“I’m terribly disappointed,’ he said in an interview Thursday. “I thought it was an enormous opportunity for Victoria and it really would help build the city.”

He said he understood the position of the government and said James apologized when she called to inform him of the decision. “Nothing I said to her was going to change her mind.”

James stated that the NDP were elected with “a very clear set of priorities” to make life more affordable for B.C. residents and add to long-term economic growth around the province. She said the government will consider future bid proposals “when there is more time to do the work necessary to protect B.C. taxpayers from financial insecurity.”

Among the question marks giving the province pause were the uncertainty of commitments from the federal and local governments, Games revenues, final venue locations and costs for security and emergency response.

Black said when he initially spoke with B.C. party leaders John Horgan, Andrew Weaver and Christy Clark, all three supported the bid, subject to seeing the budget. “Things change,” Black said. “I don’t know where the Liberals would have been today … but the last thing [Liberal] sport minister Sam Sullivan did was to send off a letter saying they were in support.”

With the bid for the 2022 Games now sunk, Black doubted that Victoria would see another opportunity “in our lifetime.”

While James stated that she expected that B.C. communities will consider bidding for future Games, such as the 100th anniversary in 2030, Black said that unlikely to happen.

The 2026 Games are not a possibility for Victoria according to Sport Canada, he said. And the country’s 2030 Games bid will likely come from the City of Hamilton if they choose to do so, as the first British Empire Games – the predecessor of the Commonwealth Games – were held there in 1930.

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