Decision must come by Tuesday: Enthusiasm for Olympic bid tepid on Toronto City Council

Olaf Scholz, the mayor of Hamburg, Germany, appeared after a celebrity relay race to officially launch his city’s bid for the 2024 Summer this week.

Two days later, in Rome, Mayor Ignazio Marino signed his city’s bid letter for the same Games at a ceremony overlooking the Forum.

Meanwhile, in , with the deadline for bid letters less than a week away, Mayor continued to consult.

Officially, he remains undecided. His office would only say Friday he “is engaged in a consultative process” and would decide before the Sept. 15 deadline.

RelatedCanadian Olympic Committee votes unanimously in favour of approving Toronto bid for 2024 Games

But behind the scenes, a Toronto Olympic bid is beginning to seem less and less likely, at least for 2024.

To enter the race, Tory must co-sign a letter to the International Olympic Committee with the Canadian Olympic Committee by Tuesday.

Friday, the COC voted unanimously to put its name forward for the Games, but Tory stayed silent.

“The mayor’s position on the Olympics remains the same,” his office said in a statement.

“He is engaged in a consultative process with a wide variety of stakeholders, including city councillors, non-profits, unions, young leaders and the business community. He will continue to do that.”

There are signs Tory’s reluctance to commit may be costing him — or at least the bid —  support.

Councillor James Pasternak once felt a 2024 Olympic bid would be “transformational” for the city, providing “everlasting infrastructure” and accelerating transit and housing development. Now he’s less sure.

“My excitement has waned in recent weeks,” he said. “When you go into something like this, it has to be unequivocal. … The fact that the deadline is just days away and the fact that there is ambivalence at the political level, I think it would probably be prudent not to bid on the 2024 Games.”

Instead, he wants to form a committee to look at a bid for 2028.

For a bid to move forward, Tory would have to gain council’s approval.

Pasternak is not the only councillor having doubts. The National Post contacted all 44 council members this week. Of the 26 who replied, only one — Anthony Perruzza — expressed qualified support for a bid.

“I think we should try to put together a bid that makes sense and that is doable and one that doesn’t strap the City of Toronto financially indefinitely as we go forward in the future, and if all of those things are achieved, then absolutely we should do it,” he said.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us.”

Fourteen councillors said they were opposed, including Janet Davis.

“I don’t support an Olympic bid,” she wrote in an email. “I believe the bid is too late, too expensive and not the kind of investment we need.”

Another three said they were leaning against a bid  — “I think an Olympic bid at this point sidetracks us a bit,” said Coun. Justin Di Ciano — while eight, including Pasternak, said they were undecided.

To get a bid through council, Tory would need to find 22 yes votes, not including his own, from the 30 councillors who haven’t yet come out firmly against the idea.

The no side, not including those leaning against, needs only nine more votes to scuttle a bid.

The main criticisms cited by most bid foes are cost and the cramped timeline.

“The deadline to submit a bid on Sept. 15 gives a too short time frame to reach a conclusion,” wrote Councillor Chin Lee in an email. “So it is not appropriate to rush such a decision.”

The federal election also complicates the process.

To mount a full bid, Toronto would need the written financial support of the provincial and federal governments, likely by mid-January. But a new Parliament won’t be elected until Oct. 19 and even then, if polls are to believed, the new government is likely to be a minority of some kind.

Not, in other words, the easiest negotiating partner for a city seeking billions of dollars for a sporting event.

For Coun. Josh Matlow, getting that kind of commitment, not just for the Olympics, but for a full list of outstanding Toronto infrastructure projects, is the only way he would even remotely consider a bid.

The deadline to submit a bid on Sept. 15 gives a too short time frame to reach a conclusion

“I think it would be a slap in the face and quite embarrassing if we turned around and said that the Games were more important than those priorities,” he said.

In addition to Rome and Hamburg, Paris, Budapest and Los Angeles have declared interest in the 2024 Games.

But not all is lost for Toronto. The fact the city is undecided won’t necessarily count against if it does commit, said Robert Livingstone, an Olympic bid analyst and the founder of

“This is an unusual campaign, in that all the cities have been into it for many months,” he said. “But typically, at this point, a lot of times nothing has been done.”

About Richard Warnica