Mayor says Toronto will decide 'very quickly' on Olympic bid
TORONTO (AP) Toronto Mayor John Tory says Canada's largest city will make a decision ''very quickly'' whether to bid for the 2024 Olympics.
Tory did nothing to quash speculation that Toronto will bid and use the ongoing Pan American Games as a springboard, in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday.
Five cities have already said they will bid: Boston; Budapest, Hungary; Hamburg, Germany; Paris; Rome.
''We have to sit down right after these games and prepare every bit of analysis - on the finances, on the benefits to the city, on the amount of publicity it will give us,'' Tory said.
Canada has spent about $2.5 billion Canadian ($2 billion) to organize the Pan Am Games - the most expensive in history - and has several Olympic-style venues in place. It has spent 10 times more than Winnipeg did to organize the 1999 Pan Am Games.
Toronto is facing a tight deadline. Candidates must make an official bid with the International Olympic Committee by Sept. 15.
''We don't have any choice but to get it done very quickly.'' Tory said.
Toronto has failed twice with recent Olympic bids. It lost out to Atlanta for the 1996 Games, and to Beijing for 2008. Also etched in the country's memory are the 1976 Montreal Games, which ran up a $1.5 billion debt that took the city 30 years to pay off.
''I'll be honest. I don't want to be the mayor that presides over some kind of modern-day record for bidding and losing,'' Tory said. ''We want to make a decision - to do it or not - and then campaign our little hearts out, and campaign to win.''
Marcel Aubut, the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, has said Toronto should consider bidding.
''My view is this country should look at the Summer Games as a priority, and there's not any other city in the country other than Toronto that could offer the site to do this,'' Aubut told the Toronto Star in a recent interview.
The COC declined a request to interview Aubut, although he is expected to speak on Sunday, the final day of the Pan Am Games.
Tory said he spoke with IOC President Thomas Bach at the Pan Am opening ceremony. Bach has pushed recently to cut Olympic costs, embarrassed that Russian spent $51 billion organizing the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
''He (Bach) told me they are not going to be seeking out anymore the biggest and boldest and most expensive bids,'' Tory said.
Saad Rafi, the CEO of the Pan Am Games, called many of the venues ''Olympic standard,'' though he said some were smaller than needed for the Olympics.
''Some of the swimmers have said to me that the pool is as good as any Olympic facility they've been to, including Beijing or London,'' Rafi told The AP.
Public support in Toronto is hard to gauge. Costs have been criticized, 90 percent of which are picked up by the government. About $55 million Canadian ($42 million) has been spent on a velodrome. An athletes' village cost $700 million Canadian ($540 million) and will be turned into condominiums, apartments, and student housing.
The IOC binds host countries to pick up any cost overruns.
''Opinions are divided,'' Tory said. ''I would say there are more people here in favor of these kinds of international events than opposed.''
Toronto's interest comes as Boston is struggling to gain traction with public support below 50 percent.
''I know enough about the IOC and its Papal-like selection process - the puff of white smoke emerges but you're never quite sure about the factors,'' Tory said. ''If Toronto's in this contest, then I guess it will be helpful not to have another North American entry.''
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP