The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and its Paralympics counterpart have formally signed agreements with four Native American nations, as well as the municipalities of Vancouver and Whistler, to start exploring the feasibility of an indigenous-led bid for the 2030 Winter Games in the province of British Columbia.

The agreement, announced yesterday, means authorities from those four nations – Líl̓wat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh – will work alongside the mayors of Whistler and Vancouver to assess whether it will be possible for the overall British Columbia region to bid for hosting rights, with the indigenous communities mentioned above at the heart of any submission.

A group of regional experts will now conduct technical assessments before a formal review with all stakeholders takes place in the next few months, it has been reported.

Canada, and indeed both Vancouver and Whistler, last hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2010.

A partnership between the various Native American nations and the municipal authorities of those cities, around the 2030 games, was first agreed on informally in December.

To date, rival bid proposals for 2030 have come in from Sapporo in Japan and from a combined Barcelona-Zaragoza-Pyrenees submission, while Salt Lake City in the US intends to launch as well. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed talks with all these cities.

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Salt Lake City and Sapporo are generally considered to be the two front-runners.

There are also potential bids incoming from Almaty in Kazakhstan, Lviv in Ukraine, and the Savoy region in France.

The British Columbia option has gained favor with the COC in terms of bidding, ahead of a rival Canadian bid from Quebec City, which was launched last April but which the COC shut down in August, opting to put its weight behind the Vancouver submission, which has been gathering pace for some time.

Wayne Sparrow, chief of the Musqueam, said: "A First Nations-led bid process is what is needed and it's the foundation for us uniting and working together. Our relations have never been stronger and we're on a path to really, really see reconciliation and action.”

He added that with the Winter Games 20 years ago having been held in Vancouver, “all the facilities have been done, so not it’s just about upgrading most of these…”

Wilson Williams, an elected councilor from the Squamish Nation, added: “It’s our due diligence now to go back to our communities and make sure it is feasible to put a bid together.”

Following the feasibility phase, a full assessment will be completed by all groups and involved stakeholders before proceeding with any bid.

After this year's Winter Olympics in Beijing, which will last from February 4 to 20, the 2026 edition will take place in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in northern Italy.

It is expected that host city status for the 2030 Winter Games will be awarded at the IOC’s 2023 session, with that organization’s Future Host Commission likely to award a city with ‘preferred host city status’ towards the end of this year.

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics were widely regarded as a success, and the organizing committee claimed they broke even financially.

The IOC is currently weighing up potential candidates for the 2030 games and encouraging sustainable and low-cost bids as part of its Agenda 2020 reform program.

In 2019, the IOC substantially altered its rules for the host city bidding process, to reduce bid costs and streamline the system.

Unlike under the previous system, prospective host cities do not campaign. Instead, they are evaluated by a host commission (one each for the summer and winter editions of the games), which then start extended talks with a smaller number of cities, names ‘preferred hosts’. If there are multiple preferred hosts, the IOC will then vote to decide the final host city at the next available IOC session.