VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s being described as a missed opportunity by many in Vancouver’s soccer and business communities.
North America will host the World Cup in 2026, but this city will play no part due to a decision in March from the provincial government, which cited economic concerns.
Events like these bring in plenty of tourism and put cities into focus in a way that’s difficult to measure.
Charles Gauthier with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association acknowledges the province may have had legitimate reasons for nixing the idea, but says there’s still a feeling of disappointment.
“Especially now that the North American bid has been given the green light, I believe that it would have been great for the city in terms of profile, exposure, especially since we are trying to take advantage of the sports economy that’s out there.”
While it looks like Vancouver won’t get to host any games, Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association says local bars could still benefit thanks to the similar time zones.
“It’s not very many games that we would have been involved in, so we’ll be good,” Tostenson says. “We’ll just get the big TV screens at our restaurants and bars and enjoy it outside in the sun.”
He adds even this year’s World Cup in Russia is expected to bring people through the doors of local establishments to watch the games around lunchtime.
Premier John Horgan had said his government wasn’t comfortable signing what he described as a blank cheque to FIFA during the bid process — a decision that withdrew Vancouver from consideration.
Jobs critic Jas Johal with the BC Liberals is still trying to get over that decision.
“There are many critics who said we shouldn’t have gone ahead with the 2010 Olympics. There are many critics who said we shouldn’t have gone ahead with the FIFA World Cup, Women’s World Cup, and we did. And guess what? We were successful with every single one of them. And to walk away in this case shows a completely lack of leadership and vision.”
Related: Watch the coach of Canada men’s national soccer team, John Herdman, speak following the news
But, it’s one the province’s minister of tourism, arts and culture, continues to stand by.
“Our government has a responsibility to ensure that BC taxpayers are not on the hook for hidden costs,” Lisa Beare says in a statement. “The Province carefully assesses all sport events for value to taxpayers. The FIFA bid agreement contained clauses, which government felt left taxpayers at unacceptable risk of additional costs. We tried very hard to get assurances that addressed our concerns. Unfortunately, those assurances were not forthcoming.”
The “United Bid” between Canada, Mexico and the United States beat out Morocco to win the right to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, marking the first time that international soccer’s marquee event will touch down on Canadian soil.
A former coach and player with the national team, Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi, says while he’s disappointed Vancouver won’t play a part in the soccer world’s biggest spectacle, he admits it’s time to move on.
He saying he’s ecstatic World Cup games will be played in this country.
“I think the overriding factor is it’s coming to North America and as far as the profile that that would put on soccer in North America, I think it’s going to benefit,” Lenarduzzi tells NEWS 1130.
Following the announcement Wednesday morning, CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani, had shared his excitement that Canada is set to co-host the massive tournament. However, you could hera the disappointment in his voice when he was interviewed by our sister station Sportsnet 650 when the topic of Vancouver not hosting any matches was brought up.
“Well listen, it’s eight years. A lot of things can happen in eight years, but the reality is… I wanted it as well, but you know what, I didn’t make that decision. Somebody else did.”
That somebody else of course being the premier, who we’re told is not available for an interview.
With files from Sportsnet