NEWS
07/26/2015 18:04 EDT | Updated 07/26/2016 01:12 EDT

Canadian Olympic chief Aubut urges Toronto to get in the game for 2024

TORONTO — The head of the Canadian Olympic Committee has launched a full-court press for a Toronto Olympic bid, while the city is playing it more cautious.

COC president Marcel Aubut declared he'd utilize "the full power of my office" when the Pan American Games closed Sunday to back a Toronto bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

He laid out in detail at a closing news conference why Toronto should submit its name Sept. 15 to the International Olympic Committee.

The COC's closing news conference is traditionally held to talk about the Canadian team's performance, but the question-and-answer portion was dominated by talk of an Olympic bid.

"The Pan Ams paved the way for an Olympic bid," Aubut said. "This is the momentum we needed to talk seriously about this.

"It's time that Toronto, the fourth-biggest city in North America, has a chance to show to the world they are also a global city.

"Toronto deserves the next opportunity. For what they achieved, they deserve to go further as such. And further is the Games. It's the biggest show on earth, the Summer Olympic Games."

While Aubut talked fervently about why Toronto should throw its hat into the Olympic rings, Toronto mayor John Tory stayed under the radar on the subject.

When asked for comment by The Canadian Press on Sunday, a city spokesperson referred to an earlier statement that "any discussion of a possible Olympic bid would take place after the close of these Games."

The Parapan Am Games run Aug. 7-15, so the clock is ticking on Toronto declaring itself a candidate city.

When Rob Ford was mayor, the city's economic development committee voted unanimously Jan. 20, 2014, to defer indefinitely a debate over a potential 2024 bid. Toronto's next city council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 30.

Aubut alluded to discussions he's had with Tory during the Pan Am Games.

"Nothing can be done without the mayor, without the city," Aubut said. "You need a mayor to start the process. The mayor of Toronto, he expressed some interest the last two weeks, especially last week.

"He has my confidence and he's going to do what's good for Torontonians."

Toronto would also need the backing of the federal government. A fall election is a complicating factor.

Five other cities are also in the running for the 2024 Games: Boston, Budapest, Hamburg, Paris and Rome.

Aubut urged Toronto to capitalize on the glow of the Canadian team's record-setting performance of 217 medals, including 78 gold, to finish second behind the United States.

The IOC also adopted in December several recommendations aimed at reducing the cost of bidding for and hosting Games, in response to having just two candidate cities for the 2022 Winter Games.

"We would be the first player to use this," Aubut said. "Flexibility could be showed by accepting current sites, current venues, especially if they are new like you have in Toronto.

"Does it make sense to build a white elephant that nobody wants to use after? The IOC doesn't want this."

Toronto has twice bid unsuccessfully for the Summer Olympics and most recently for the 2008 Games awarded to Beijing.

The 1976 Summer Olympics were held in Montreal, the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Pan Am trampoline gold medallist Rosannagh MacLennan and bronze-medal paddler Adam van Koeverden were bullish on a Toronto Olympic bid.

"I think it can do a heck of a lot more for our country than people realize," van Koeverden said. "It's about having a deadline for development, creating really, really sustainable plans for the future, ensuring our next generation has access to things that current and previous generations didn't."

"It doesn't have to cost $10 billion and I don't think it will because (IOC president) Thomas Bach is squarely against that. If anything, a couple of the venues are going to require a bit of an update, maybe some more seating. And we have eight years to pull that off."

Added MacLennan: "We've seen how it can create really strong infrastructure for summer sport in Toronto and in the greater Toronto area. It's an opportunity to step that up another level and also inspire a whole new generation of athletes."

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press