Last month’s announcement of Vancouver as one of the 16 host cities for the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup was greeted with satisfaction from most British Columbians.
When Research Co. and Glacier Media asked the province’s residents about this development, 55 per cent agreed with the selection, while 34 per cent did not and 11 per cent were undecided.
BC Place hosted key matches during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The notion of the same venue being used for what is arguably the most watched sporting event on the planet is enthralling for residents of all genders, ages and regions of British Columbia.
This is also an opportune time to focus on the Olympics. The prospect of a new bid that would bring the Winter Games to Vancouver in 2030 has gone through some significant fluctuations. In January 2020, sizable majorities of British Columbians supported Vancouver seeking to organize the Summer (62 per cent) or Winter (60 per cent) Olympics.
When we re-asked these questions in October 2021, a few weeks after the postponed Tokyo Summer Olympics ended, British Columbians were no longer as certain of their wish. Support for a 2030 Winter Games bid dropped to 43 per cent, and backing for Vancouver seeking to host the 2036 Summer Games plummeted to 38 per cent.
Several factors explain this decline. COVID-19 deeply affected the planning of the Tokyo games, and the local public was not particularly thrilled. The early advocates of a new Vancouver bid were the remaining protagonists of the previous one, absurdly touting the idea of an event that could be put together without any government or public funds.
Most British Columbians reacted – and continue to react – with skepticism at this misguided notion, which at the time was buttressed by a poorly conducted survey from a now defunct company. In our latest poll, 58 per cent of British Columbians (up three points) think it is “definitely” or “probably” impossible to host the Winter Olympics without government or public funds, a proportion that rises to 73 per cent among those aged 55 and over.
British Columbians understand that these events are never free, even if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has abandoned the practice of making cities spend before a decision is made. The experience of Tokyo – where dreams of a surplus were quashed by the absence of fans in the stands – was also on the minds of residents. We see little change in the perceptions of the province’s residents on the IOC itself, with 47 per cent (down one point) expressing positive views and 33 per cent (down three points) outlining a negative opinion.
Even as views on the IOC remain stagnant, and with consistency in the perception that cost-free Olympics are a fallacy, support for welcoming the world again has risen. A bid for Vancouver to become the second city to host both the Winter and Summer editions of the Games is now supported by just under half of British Columbians (48 per cent, up 10 points).
In addition, 54 per cent of British Columbians think a bid for the 2030 Winter Games should “definitely” or “probably” be launched, up 11 points since late 2021. Opposition has fallen to 35 per cent (down 10 points). This is a welcome development for organizers, especially after the Barcelona-Pyrenees bid was cancelled last month. Sapporo, Japan, and Salt Lake City, Utah, are now the only competitors for Vancouver.
One issue that organizers will need to deal with is a generational gap. While 61 per cent of British Columbians aged 18 to 34 would welcome a Vancouver bid for the 2030 Winter Games, the numbers drop slightly among their counterparts aged 35 to 54 (56 per cent) and fall below the majority line among those aged 55 and over (48 per cent).
One element that has changed since our last survey is the official announcement that the Winter Games bid is being explored by Four Host First Nations – Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Lil’wat – and the municipal governments of Vancouver and Whistler. When British Columbians are asked what effect the existence of this Indigenous-led partnership has on their perception, 23 per cent claim it makes them more likely to endorse the Olympic bid, while 18 per cent say it makes them less supportive.
Again, the age differences are telling.
While 32 per cent of British Columbians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to back the bid because of the Four Host First Nations, 21 per cent of those aged 55 and over say this fact makes them less likely to be in favour of it.
It is clear that support for the Vancouver 2030 Winter Olympic bid fell drastically last year because of three reasons: the experience of Tokyo and its residents, the fading reputation of those associated with the previous organizing committee and the misleading claim that the Games would carry no economic consequences. The creation of an Indigenous-led partnership has brought a higher level of support from younger British Columbians, while at the same time throwing off their older counterparts.
As the world awaits a final decision on who will host the 2030 Winter Olympics, British Columbians are cautiously warming up to a new bid. Support is not as high as it was in the nostalgic early days of 2020, but not as low as during the height of post-Tokyo apprehension. The organizers must ensure that the purifying effect of an Indigenous-led partnership is accompanied by tangible benefits for the entire population.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from June 24 to June 26, 2022, among 800 adults in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.