Mayor Chow ‘saddled’ with making World Cup successful despite ballooning costs

With a price tag of $380 million, hosting FIFA World Cup games may be falling short of a win for Toronto. Despite rising costs, Mayor Olivia Chow says she will try and find ways to score some benefits. Mark McAllister reports.

Toronto’s decision to play host to the 2026 FIFA World Cup is raising a number of questions about how best the city can benefit from one of the biggest global sporting events despite the ballooning costs associated with it.

Canada, which is co-hosting the event alongside Mexico and the United States, will stage 10 opening-round games — split evenly between Vancovuer and Toronto which will play host to Canada’s first group match on June 12 at BMO Field.

According to a report presented at Thursday’s Executive Committee, the cost to host six matches in Toronto has gone from an estimated $300 million to $380 million. So far, the Ontario government has conditionally committed $97 million to help the city while the federal government has committed to supporting the city, but specific financial commitments have not been confirmed.

“Hosting the games means embracing the games. Let’s get people excited,” said Mayor Olivia Chow, now forced into some soccer-like footwork when it comes to supporting the deal that was negotiated by former Mayor John Tory.

“I’m saddled with it. Would I want to see $380 million being spent on it? No. Would I have signed the deal that none of the provincial and federal government contributions been locked down? No,” she said.

As for the benefits the city will realize for playing host to the games at BMO Field? Most of the revenues will end up going to other levels of government. The latest report suggests while the Toronto “region” will see $120 million in tax revenue the city itself will see about $3 million.

“So we need to make sure that we look for ways to maximize this as an opportunity and bring in more revenue so that at the end of the day, not only do we enjoy the games here in our city, but also benefit financially,” said Coun. Josh Matlow.

Chow says she is urging the federal government to take on the responsibility of security for the World Cup with the help of the RCMP, which would help cover those costs.

“There’s a lot of contracts that need to be signed. I will do everything I can to set up a committee to see if we could get more private sector contribution,” she added.

While the city scrambles to try and find more benefits as a result of hosting the World Cup, there is a business plan that does say there will be a boost to the economy and to tourism well after the tournament is played.

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