World Cup soccer won’t be coming to B.C. in 2026, after a joint North American bid won the right to host the tournament.
The B.C. government dropped out of the bidding in March, citing unknown costs due to possible upgrades to B.C. Place stadium to meet the demands of FIFA, the World Cup governing body.
Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said Wednesday she is happy that the North America bid was successful, but the province made the right decision.
Premier John Horgan was in Grand Forks Wednesday to announce a new disaster relief fund for people forced from their homes.
“I do not regret for a minute the decision we made to withdraw any support for the bid, based on the lack of a final number from FIFA,” Horgan said. “We’re still not prepared to write a blank cheque for a soccer tournament that would not guarantee a specific number of games, would not guarantee the duration of the closing of B.C. Place and would not give us a final dollar figure.
“Now knowing that we need to put resources into places like Grand Forks and looking at a fire season ahead of us, I think most taxpayers would be grateful for that decision,” Horgan said.
The announcement of North America’s winning bid came Wednesday from Moscow, where Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup tournament.
“It was goose bumps, it was tears, cheering, it was unbelievable,” said Karina LeBlanc, two-time Olympic medal winning goaltender for Canada’s national women’s soccer team.
Breaking news for those just waking up.
CANADA/USA/MEXICO WILL HOST 2026 WORLD CUP.
Let me just say the energy in the room went tense to jubilation!#United2026 @CanadaSoccerEN @ussoccer @miseleccionmxEN @Concacaf pic.twitter.com/6acRJfoQmQ
— Karina LeBlanc (@karinaleblanc) June 13, 2018
LeBlanc, who grew up in Maple Ridge B.C. and now plays professionally, was in Moscow for the decision. “It’s a game changer for our three countries, especially for Canada,” she said.
B.C. was dropped from the Canadian bid after the province refused to sign off on undefined upgrades that may have included putting natural grass turf in B.C. Place stadium.
B.C. Liberal tourism critic Jas Johal said the decision to drop out is a setback for tourism in B.C., the only province that couldn’t make a deal for the three-country bid. B.C. residents will have to “reserve a spot on the sofa instead of the stadium,” Johal said.
That leaves Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto in the running to host the 10 games that will be awarded to Canada. There is no guarantee all the cities will host games as plans for the World Cup tournament continue to unfold under FIFA control.