This will be the last thing I say about the 2024 Olympic bid, now non-bid.
I’m as tired of it as you are.
On Tuesday, prior to Mayor Tory officially confirming what everyone unofficially already knew, Matt Galloway hosted a segment on Metro Morning with two opposing views on the city-building merits of hosting the Olympic games. Supporting the idea was Rahul Bhardwaj, CEO and President of Toronto Foundation, an organization promoting “the Art of Wise Giving” and connecting “philanthropy to community needs and opportunities” (according to the group’s website). He was also the VP of Toronto’s last Olympic bid, back in 2008.
I’ve seen Mr. Bhardwaj talk at a couple of events over the past few years, heard him interviewed on the radio. He always struck me as somebody I’d like to see in public office. Thoughtful, enthusiastic, articulate, a welcome addition to any legislative body, in my humble opinion.
So I listened intently to his arguments about what hosting the Olympics could do for Toronto. Since it was pretty clear that wouldn’t be happening this time around, no looming deadline hanging over the discussion, it didn’t feel all so loaded and contentious. Now, with years of planning ahead at our disposal, was the time to have this conversation.
He sang a familiar refrain. Hosting the Olympics would act as a “catalyst for the things this city needs,” he told Galloway. The Olympics presented “an opportunity to focus scare resources” at all levels of government on building things like transit and other infrastructure, affordable housing, create jobs.
“World class cities, that’s what they do,” he said. Yeah. He went there.
“We all have to take risks. We all have to innovate.” Failure to do so spoke “to a lack of confidence”, ambition even. To not bid on the Olympics represented a “missed opportunity,” according to Bhardwaj.
Aside from the ‘world class city’, lack of confidence nonsense, I found fault with little Mr. Bhardwaj said. Toronto certainly has a long list of need-to-haves in terms of both physical and social infrastructure. It doesn’t have the means to pay for them itself nor should it have to. The other levels of government, the senior levels of government have proven loath to contribute to any or all of these items fully or regularly. Offering up an opportunity to do so in a manner that allows them to be both self-aggrandizing while appearing to be province/nation building rather than specific city building might just be the ticket.
Risky, for sure, as all sorts of things have to fall into place for any sort of Olympic bid to succeed. Innovative though? I guess, if that means depending on a magic bullet solution that’s shown mixed results in other places that have hosted the Olympics. As Mr. Bhardwaj’s co-guest on the show, Dean Rivando, claimed, the 2012 games in London brought $7 billion in infrastructure with a $14 billion price tag in public money spent. That’s a pretty hefty middleman sum.
“Why do we need a circus like that [the Olympics] to build the things that we need in Toronto?” Galloway asked Bhardwaj.
Answering that question satisfactorily would be something truly innovative. City-builders like Rahul Bhardwaj should spend some of their city-building energy addressing the asymmetric governance structure which sees us funnelling most of our money the furthest away from where we need it and have it trickling back when it suits the federal and provincial governments’ interests. We’re like children who cut the neighbours’ lawns for extra cash in order to pay rent to our parents, and still have to beg them for an allowance, and when they give it to us, we’re told we have to use it to go buy them a pack of smokes. (Yeah, I’m of that vantage. Pun not typo.)
Bad analogies aside, we need innovative city leaders who don’t simply accept the status quo. I do not believe you can be an effective and useful city builder anymore unless at least some of your respective connections and social capital are utilised in the direction of confronting and combating the fundamental lack of fairness in how our governance model functions. We have to figure out how, in the 21st-century, we shed our 19th-century skin.
By hosting the Olympics, Bhardwaj told Metro Morning listeners on Tuesday, “We can actually build a vision of this city.”
How about dedicating our efforts to building a city that isn’t dependent on other levels of government to do things it needs to do, a city that doesn’t have to beg and perform a song and dance in the hopes of propping up our crumbling infrastructure or housing its residents affordably or move them around from point A to point B quickly and efficiently? A vision of an independent city that makes the right decisions for the right reasons rather than because it has little alternative. That’s the vision of Toronto I’d like to see us pursuing.
— for realzly submitted by Cityslikr