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Safety a concern if Vancouver hosts FIFA 2026

Council members secure about municipal safety standards, unsure about outsiders.

Safety a concern if Vancouver is awarded FIFA 2026 World Cup. Photo by Myra Dionne
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Reported by Myra Dionne

Advocates and politicians say that if Vancouver becomes part of a successful 2026 World Cup bid, as the city is hoping for, they are worried the additional surveillance from security forces will increase vulnerabilities for low-income residents.

Lenée Son, a co-ordinator for Carnegie Community Action Project, said major sporting events in the past, like the 2010 Winter Olympics, created zones of exclusion where low-income residents were heavily monitored and followed by police and business security guards in areas that tourists were likely to stay or visit.

“There’s already an increased amount of violence that’s at the hands of the (Vancouver police) and against people in the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown,” Son said. “They need to address the violence that the Vancouver police perpetuates against the community before they start bringing in more security.”

City Coun. Andrea Reimer defended local police, saying that they have been sensitive to vulnerable populations.

But she said that police or security from elsewhere are less certain.

“I’m not as confident about police forces from outside of Vancouver being able to achieve that standard,” said Reimer.

Vancouver may become a host city in a three-nation bid

The concerns have arisen because Vancouver council is supporting an effort to become one of the Canadian host cities in an unprecedented three-nation bid with Mexico and the United States.

If chosen as a host city, Vancouver and Canada will be responsible for providing safety and security for up to five games of the 80 total.

Sgt. Jason Robillard, media spokesperson for the Vancouver police, said security at international and national events are often under the control of the federal RCMP.

“They have lots of dignitaries, so it’s quite a complex security detail depending on who’s coming and what kind of things we have,” said Robillard. “We do obviously play a role as a local police department but, on the bigger scale, these events are usually run by the RCMP.”

Michelle Collens, manager of Sport Hosting Vancouver, said participating in the three-country bid would be beneficial for the city. She said a multi-party agreement would have to be signed by the city and the host country that outlines security funding and mandates.

Security costs have not been determined

Estimated security costs for the city or country are yet to be determined, as the requirements have not been detailed yet by the international soccer federation, FIFA.

“Costs are highly dependent on unique cost drivers such as location, size of the security environment, specific threats that may be in place eight years from now, what countries we are hosting and many other variables,” said Collens.

The city could expect to see $90 million to $480 million in benefits, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group that was commissioned to determine revenue estimates. Collens said the city would also benefit from increased media attention and tourism.

The only other country competing for a chance to host the men’s World Cup soccer games is Morocco. The host country or countries will know by June 2018 if their bid is successful.

There are four Canadian cities looking to host 10 of the 80 games that will be part of the 2026 World Cup. Toronto and Montreal are competing for the east and Edmonton will be competing against Vancouver for the west.

Mexico will also host 10 matches while the United States will host 60. The host cities will be revealed in 2021.

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