2024 Olympic bid smells seat-of-the-pants with Expo plans in the works

Lost in the shuffle of all the.

Lost in the shuffle of all the post-Pan Am stories about a possible bid by the city for a 2024 Olympics is the fact that there is another option already on the table – one that Mayor John Tory has been working on behind the scenes since he was chair of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance. That’s a bid for Expo 2025.

The mayor visited Paris in mid-June and met with Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, secretary-general of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the governing body that awards an Expo/World’s Fair. 

Tory followed that up with a letter to Loscertales July 5 to extend a formal invitation to visit Toronto to “share your insight and advice on bidding for and hosting Expo 2025.” It’s the second time Tory has extended an invitation to Loscertales he wrote to him in 2010 as well. On that occasion, the signature of Jaime Watt, past president of the Canadian Club, was also on Tory’s letter.

An Expo 2025 working group with Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam Claire Hopkinson, CEO of the Toronto Arts Council and Senator Art Eggleton, among others, has been developing a plan to make a formal Expo bid since 2010. 

There’s a huge logistical hurdle for a 2024 Olympic bid: a September 15 deadline to submit a letter of interest (with $150,000 in cash) to the International Olympic Committee, and council doesn’t meet again until September 29. Not to mention the necessary financial commitments from the provincial and federal governments. 

Unlike past Olympics, which have left a legacy of debt in cities that have hosted them, World Expos have been transformative for cities where they’ve been held. 

Shanghai’s, with its 73 million visitors, was the largest nation-to-nation and tourism event in recorded human history. 

Expos are not big parties. They’re six-month events whose purpose is to accelerate and accomplish needed priorities. 

As the city’s own 2014 feasibility study noted, an Olympic bid would require a huge amount of investment, some $17.1 billion, about $1 billion of that for a major stadium to host the Games. That study projected that Expo 2025 would attract 40 million visitors, spark $15.5 billion in economic activity and create up to 190,000 jobs over an eight-year period. 

Expo would also see $5.4 billion in new tax revenues generated by the actual hosting of the event, confirming an earlier PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study estimating Expo returns of $2.7 billion to the federal treasury, $2 billion to provincial treasuries (of which Ontario’s share would be $1.8 billion) and $600 million to Ontario municipalities, half of that to Toronto. 

City council, when it discussed an Expo bid in 2012, before Prime Minister Stephen Harper turned the idea down flat (and pulled Canada’s membership from the BIE), laid out three key imperatives: to be the most environmentally responsible and “green” Expo ever held to be the world’s most socially responsible, inclusive and accessible Expo and to be the most relevant, innovative and forward-looking Expo.

By a wide margin, council specified that an Expo bid be tied to a needed legacy for the GTA, Ontario and Canada, which would include trade and investment, transit and transportation, arts and culture and affordable housing.

As chair of CivicAction, Tory had this to say in a letter to then foreign affairs minister John Baird urging the feds not to pull out of BIE: “Events of a global scale, like the Expos…, [will] help accelerate economic development and engage the more than 6 million Canadians living in the Greater Toronto Area in a unique, world-class experience.”

As a candidate running for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership, Kathleen Wynne wrote to Wong-Tam to express her support for an Expo 2025 bid, calling it “a project of major importance to the future economic vitality of Greater Toronto.” 

The Olympics are not the only games in town.

Mark Maloney wrote a major report on Expo 2025 for the Carpenters Union.

news@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto 

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