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Failed Olympic bids moved Toronto toward becoming a model city


Toronto water front Toronto’s failed Olympic bids served as a catalyst to improving the city’s waterfront.

Feb. 15, 2015 – Toronto lost its bid to host the Olympics Games five times during the past half century, yet the bidding process produced legacies for the city as well as lessons for other cities, according to Assistant Professor Robert Oliver, an urban geography expert. He examined bid documents, decades of government meeting minutes, interview data, and more than a century’s worth of newspaper coverage. His results have been published in the journals Urban Geography and Sports in Society, and the textbook “Human Geography: People, Place, and Culture.”

In Toronto, various interest groups have used the Olympic bids as an occasion to redefine the vision for the city’s waterfront. The bidding process has also provided a window on the city’s politics and the importance of public participation, and reintroduced sport and the “right to play” to the city’s planning agenda, according to Oliver.

He attributes several key legacies to the city’s most recent bid effort, in 2002, including a waterfront revitalization corporation that was created with an ability to acquire and dispose of property, raise financing, control development, and implement an agreed-upon overall plan. “Thinking about the competition over urban space during an Olympic bid is a useful means to get at questions concerning residents’ ‘right to the city’ and to explore alternative arrangements, visions, and claims,” Oliver concluded.

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