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Being biggest candidate city hurt Ottawa 2021 Canada Games bid: Mayor

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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson speaks to the audience after it was announced Toronto would host the 2021 Canada Games. Photo: Steve Kingsman

By Dan Plouffe

There wasn’t a parking space to be had at Ben Franklin Place (though most were there for business other than the host announcement viewing party), sport coats overpowered team jackets in the gathering devoid of Canada Games-age athletes, and Ottawa was unable to become the largest city to host our national multi-sport games as Niagara Region was chosen to welcome the 2021 Canada Summer Games.

“One thing that I think worked against our Canada Games bid is we were the biggest city,” Mayor Jim Watson said after watching the Mar. 30 announcement via live-feed from Toronto in the Centrepointe studio theatre. “I think the committee likes the smaller cities because it’s a bigger impact in a small city, but I’ve always said Ottawa is a city with 40 or 50 small communities or neighbourhoods within the city.

“It’s not possible for us to win every time.”

Watson noted that Ottawa has hosted a pile of major sports events recently, with many more big ones to come in 2017 alone, such as national championships for triathlon, cycling, track-and-field, whitewater canoe-kayak, football, volleyball, golf, curling, water polo and electric wheelchair hockey, plus the outdoor Ottawa vs Montreal hockey game at TD Place.

“We’ve been really blessed and we have a really good track record. Unfortunately this time we were not successful, but that’s not going to prevent us from bidding on other things, like the Ontario Summer Games,” Watson indicated. “Every time we bid and every time we host, and even every time one gets away from us, it is a learning experience, and it (contributes to) our success to get more events, activities and festivals to come to Ottawa.”

Ottawa won’t be coming out guns-a-blazing in search of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, recently stripped from South Africa, however.

“That’s a big decision to take, and I think we’d have to think long and hard about the impact,” Watson said, noting Ottawa has indeed bid to host Commonwealth Games in the past (for the 2014 event ultimately awarded to Glasgow, Scotland). “I know Toronto is now musing about that as well. There is a significant cost, and we have to make sure it’s the right fit for our city.”

Despite being “disappointed with the result obviously,” Watson underlined his pride in the collective efforts of everyone involved with the Ottawa 2021 bid. The images from public events – such as the bid kickoff at City Hall, the bid book delivery relay down the Rideau Canal to the Canada Games office, and the bid selection committee visit – provided an impressive showcase of the local sports community working hand-in-hand, he noted.

“We’re proud of the facilities and volunteers that came together from across the city to put in a really, really good bid for the 2021 Canada Summer Games,” Watson added. “The sports community did a great job and they should hold their head high.”

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