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'Very disheartening': Hopes dashed for Indigenous-led bid to host 2030 Olympics in B.C.

The First Nations behind an Indigenous-led bid to host the 2030 Olympics in British Columbia are reacting after learning the provincial government won’t be supporting their efforts. 

Chief Jen Thomas was elected into her position by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, one of four Indigenous communities that led the charge to have the sporting event be the first ever to reflect their communities' spirits and worldviews.

"Very disheartening,” said Thomas in an interview with CTV News. “We felt we weren't respected enough to be a part of this decision with the province.”

Organizers said they asked for a meeting with provincial decision-makers hoping to get support for their bid. They say that never materialized, and neither did government support

Tsleil-Waututh Council Member Dennis Thomas said he thought the timing was right. He noted the bid had partners in the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, the City of Vancouver, and the resort municipality of Whistler. With the progress made recognizing the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Vancouver and the province, he said he was surprised by the decision.

"For it to be a unilateral decision without any input or feedback, that's what's kind of concerning," he added.

Opposition parties also voiced their disapproval with how the province handled the relationship with those behind the bid. Liberal House Leader Todd Stone said the economic opportunities for all British Columbians was “significant.”

"To turn their backs on First Nations in particular on this is frankly irresponsible," he told reporters at the legislature Thursday, referring to the NDP government.

Stone also pointed out the premier-in-waiting, David Eby, was critical of the 2010 Olympics, suggesting that may be a factor.

Lisa Beare, the minister responsible for tourism, arts, sports and culture said it came down to the business case.

"The current bid is cost-estimated at $1.2 billion and an additional billion dollars in risk. And when we weighed that about against our government priorities, we believe we need to focus on people," Beare explained.

She added that focus included addressing health-care, cost of living, and public safety concerns.

Elected leaders with the Tsleil-Waututh say they can accept the outcome, just not the way it was decided.

"For true reconciliation, we have to find a way to work together on this journey and right now we just took 10 steps backwards," added Chief Thomas.

The International Olympic Committee needs some entity to take on the legal risks, not to mention to chip in for some of the funding. With the province saying it won't be stepping up, that seems to kill the bid.

The dream may be over, but with the province hosting the World Cup and Invictus Games in the coming years, the hope is more sporting events will include Indigenous people as true partners.

"The work that has been done with the four nations and our partners, I don't want it to go unseen. It was such a beautiful work of connections of our worldviews and our values, really supporting our ways of being," explained Councillor Thomas.

Organizers are expected to share more information at a news conference Friday morning. Top Stories

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