Toronto will not bid for 2024 Olympics, says mayor

Michel Comte
Five cities -- Budapest, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome -- are already in the mix as confirmed candidates in the race to host the 2024 Olympics (AFP Photo/Bernd Von Jutrczenka)

Toronto (Canada) (AFP) - Toronto has decided not to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Mayor John Tory announced Tuesday, as public support for hosting the event had waned.

There are already five cities confirmed as candidates to host the Games -- Budapest, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome.

But for Canada's largest city, public opposition perhaps tipped the scales -- a poll released Monday showed only a slight majority of residents in favor of holding the Games -- and rising opposition over how much it might cost.

"I am not saying no to the Olympics," Tory said. "I am saying not this time."

The mayor expressed regret at passing up the opportunity to showcase his city.

"I have no doubt that the Olympic Games would put the eyes of the world on Toronto. I love this city and I want nothing more than to be able to show the rest of the world our spirit, our people, our strength, our values, the way we live together," he said.

Toronto has been passed over five times for previous Olympic bids, including for the 2008 Games, which were held in Beijing.

This time, Canada's political climate complicated the decision, with the campaign season in full swing ahead of legislative elections on October 19.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne cautioned Monday that the province, of which Toronto is the capital, would not commit to funding unless Ottawa did too.

"Ontario is not going to put itself forward and be on the hook for all of the costs," she said, adding that federal support was unclear.

Tory also said there was simply not enough time to get all the necessary preliminary plans ready to present to the International Olympic Committee by Tuesday's deadline.

- 'The cost is scary' -

On the streets of Toronto, residents had mixed reactions.

Gilles Gagne, a tour bus operator from Quebec standing outside his coach in front of city hall, told AFP: "I would have liked Toronto to host the Games."

He said he had been in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games and described the experience as "extraordinary."

"It's a plus for any city to host the Games -- all the frenzy," Gagne said.

He however noted that the Pan Am Games -- held in Toronto two months ago -- had been a "bad experience for tourists," and a nightmare for bus operators.

"We couldn't park anywhere, it was very controlled," Gagne said.

Construction workers Fernando, who only gave his first name, said he was wary of the costs.

"I'd love to have the Games here but I don't trust the organizers, with all the bribes and scandals and cost overruns in the past," he said.

"If I go over cost on a project, I pay. If the city goes over costs on the Olympics, who's going to pay: me," he said, meaning taxpayers.

"It's not right."

His fellow worker, who identified himself as Vahdat, countered: "The Olympics would bring construction jobs, so I'm for it."

Trisha Guest, who lives in the Toronto area, said she was "on the fence" but ultimately, the financial burden on the city seemed too great for her.

"I wanted us to host the Olympics, but the cost is scary," Guest said.

"I thought we might be in a good position after the Pan Am Games, but after I heard it would cost $60 million just to make a bid, I changed my mind."

The IOC will announce an official list of bidders on Wednesday.