TORONTO – A surprise city council decision Friday to consider bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics was given a solid thumbs up from the mayor of London, whose own city is set to stage one of the world’s greatest sports spectacles next month.
Boris Johnson said the Games leave lasting value, something he said will happen in his city.
“I think that’s a great move,” Johnson told The Canadian Press.
“Go for it, Toronto. You won’t regret it if you get it.”
Toronto has twice before thrown its hat into the Olympic ring — in 1996 and 2008 — only to be disappointed. It did not try for the 2020 event.
If a decision is made to try to land the Games in 2024, Johnson urged the city to “make a case” for staging them to the International Olympic Committee that goes well beyond the athletics.
“What the IOC wants to hear is that this is something that will be transformative for the life chances of people in your city,” Johnson said.
“They want to feel that the arrival of the Olympics will be a great thing, not just for sport and for international sports bureaucrats and the global TV audiences, they want to hear about how it will be of huge social benefit in Toronto.”
The games have already proven to be a benefit to people in London and will continue to be so in the future in terms of the economic investment and the impact of that investment, Johnson asserted.
“My job is now to get the yield, to get the return, to get the legacy value from that investment.”
That legacy value is “jobs, jobs, jobs, homes, growth — that’s what we’re going to produce,” he said.
The hope is also for the creation for a thriving new district around the Stratford Olympic Park and that regeneration will drive further investment in the Docklands area, he said.
The Summer Olympics formally open in London July 27 amid concern about moving the huge crush of people expected to attend around a city already known for its traffic jams.
Johnson said he was optimistic, however, the city would be ready to deal with the crowds, saying this month’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations showed that to be the case.
“London is going to be as ready as we can make it,” Johnson said.
“We’re really looking forward to welcoming Canadians and the world in just a few weeks time now.”
Johnson, who was in Toronto as part of a tour for his recently published book, said he would not have a chance to meet Mayor Rob Ford, who was not previously enthralled at the idea of bidding for the Games but backed council’s motion on Friday.
Council’s decision is preliminary, only instructing staff to examine the pros and cons of making a bid and report back next spring.