Indigenous People Lead Push for 2030 Winter Olympics, Paralympics in Vancouver

A group of Indigenous people is prepping a bid to bring the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to Vancouver, Canada. It would be the first time any Olympics was hosted by Indigenous people and could lead to further reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations.

The group was known as the “Four Host First Nations” when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2010.  

The Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh are from the area around the present-day city of Vancouver. The Lil Wat are near the present-day village of Whistler, the famed ski resort about 120 kilometers north of downtown Vancouver. 

They have signed a memorandum of understanding with the municipal governments of both Vancouver and Whistler to take the lead on making the bid for the same Games in 2030.

The First Nations played a prominent role in the 2010 Games and during the opening and closing ceremonies.

Wilson Williams, a council member and spokesperson for the Squamish Nation, fondly recalls the Vancouver area hosting the Winter Games and how it brought together over 300 Indigenous youth from across Canada in what came to be known as “The Gathering.”

He said in the years since, the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples has come into effect and Canada has entered an era of reconciliation involving historic human rights abuses committed against First Nations people.

Wilson said the Winter Games in 2030 would allow for the stories of First Nations people from across Canada to be told.

“So I think, you know, there’s a real hunger for sharing stories of who we are, where we come from, you know, there’s always that political eagerness to share the landscape in the visions of that, but I think the real story is paving a story that’s a vision for generations down the road,” he said. 

Wiliams said hosting the Games would also set a healthy example for Indigenous youth and help build a better relationship with non-First Nations Canadians.

“I think a First Nation, especially Squamish nation, really trying to pave a healthy path for our future, and setting up our “mun-mun” (children), we call it, our children for success in the future. And living a strong, vibrant and harmoniously with, with our peers, not just with First Nations community, but the community at large, you know, and I think that’s something that we’re really going to take pride in,” Williams said. 

Salt Lake City, Utah, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002, is also contending for the 2030 Games. Other bids could follow.

Montreal-based lawyer Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee and the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, says, with Los Angeles, California set to host the Summer Games in 2028, it is less likely the United States will be picked for the 2030 Winter Games, boosting the chances that Vancouver’s First Nations-led bid will succeed.

“It’s the indigenous issue is one that now resonates a lot more strongly internationally. And the IOC is certainly alert to that. And of course, then they know the involvement in Vancouver to 2010.  So, no, I don’t think it’s cutesy (a stunt) at all, I think it’s a very good way of involving an important part of the community, particularly in B.C. (British Columbia),” Pound said.

The next step is for a formal collaboration agreement to be ironed out between First Nations and municipal governments, and then a feasibility study, which will detail the costs and sources of funding for the Games.

It is hoped this will happen in the next few months.   

Almost all major venues still exist from the 2010 Games and would not need to be built. 

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