B.C. is actively pursuing the possibility of hosting multiple international sports tournaments by the end of the decade to give a much-needed boost to the tourism industry.
The province has publicly expressed support for hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the 2025 Invictus Games and the 2030 Winter Olympics. The Olympic bid is being led by the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam First Nations, making it the first-ever Indigenous-led Olympic bid.
“We have a need to attract people back to B.C. for our tourism industry and hospitality sector,” Premier John Horgan said at a Feb. 8 news conference. “The prospect of events, whether it be FIFA, the Invictus games — which is very much in play as well — and the Indigenous-led movement to see the 2030 Olympic bid come back to Vancouver-Whistler are all things that we’re happy to entertain, provided we have a full understanding of what the costs will be and we can transparently make that clear to the people who will have to pay for much of it.”
Horgan added that the province hasn’t gotten much use out of B.C. Place after pouring $514 million into renovations prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics. He said regardless of whether B.C. is chosen as a host city for any sports tournaments he wants to see it used more for concerts, conferences and events.
In an email to Black Press, Minister of Tourism, Art, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark said hosting any one of the events would be a great opportunity for B.C.’s tourism sector which has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a brutal 2021 fire season and the November atmospheric river event that washed away many of the province’s major highways.
Both Mark and Horgan confirmed the province is in talks with FIFA to explore Vancouver becoming a host city for the 2026 World Cup.
“We’ve also had preliminary discussions with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees about the concepts of a 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games and how it could advance provincial priorities for tourism, reconciliation, housing, transportation, and the environment,” she said.
The province has seemingly ruled out a bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria led by B.C. publisher (and Black Press owner) David Black. While the province has expressed public support for the other events, little has been said about the Commonwealth Games.
When pressed on the issue, the Ministry of Tourism, Art, Culture and Sport said it is open to major events that bring economic benefits but noted that Hamilton is the confirmed Canadian candidate city for the 2030 Commonwealth Games. The first-ever Commonwealth Games were held in Hamilton in 1930.
Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. said he supports the province’s efforts to attract major international sporting events.
“One of the things we’ve said is that while due diligence still has to be done — when you do a cost-benefit analysis of hosting any major sporting event so we understand, as a destination, any of the drawbacks that hosting an event might have — the advantages far outweigh any of those drawbacks.”
Judas noted the events represent a good opportunity to invest in events infrastructure and the events provide a sense of community spirit. One of the most important factors from a tourism perspective is major sporting events offer a destination branding opportunity for B.C.
As the world opens back up to travel, tourism destinations across the world are vying for tourists. Judas said the exposure and media attention that comes from major sporting events would give B.C. an edge in marketing itself as a tourism destination.
Most of the sports events will be centred around Vancouver. However, Judas said other regions of B.C. can still benefit from the opportunity.
“Say if Invictus was held in the Vancouver area, there’s nothing stopping meetings from taking place beforehand in Victoria, Kelowna or elsewhere.”
He suggested bundling or packaging games experiences with hotels, attractions and activities as part of the entire experience. Major sports events can also bring spinoff benefits in terms of attracting new investment.
It remains to be seen whether any of B.C.’s attempts to attract a major sporting event will come to fruition. But the message is clear: the province is ready to host events and welcome the world back to B.C.