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RICHMOND, B.C. — British Columbia is prepared to "entertain" the possibility of hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup games in Vancouver, Premier John Horgan said Tuesday.
Horgan told a news conference that Montreal's decision to bow out of the running has opened the door for Vancouver to become a host city.
Montreal's move leaves Edmonton and Toronto as the only Canadian cities bidding to host games during the tournament, which is to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
"Certainly, with Montreal stepping away, it does create a real opportunity for Vancouver," Horgan said.
Montreal said in a statement last week that it would pull its bid after the Quebec government withdrew its support, citing cost overruns.
There were 17 cities in the United States and three each in Canada and Mexico vying to host games until Montreal withdrew. That number likely will be cut to 16 for the tournament.
In January, FIFA said it would confirm the candidate cities by the end of the year.
Horgan said he has been in contact with FIFA representatives in Canada and indicated that if the price tag is as high as it was the last time B.C. considered a bid, it would still be too "rich" for the provincial government.
A lot has changed since 2018, when the NDP had just taken power and was reviewing the fiscal situation as a minority government, he said. Not least of all is the global COVID-19 pandemic that has battered the tourism industry.
"The prospect of inviting the world to Vancouver in 2026 all of a sudden takes on a whole new meaning, not just for those passionate about soccer but those who would want to see an opportunity to reacquaint the world with the splendour of British Columbia and particularly Vancouver," Horgan said.
B.C. has made "abundantly clear" to organizers that the price must be right, but both FIFA and the province are in different places than they were in 2018, he said.
"We're prepared to entertain those discussions and see where we go."
Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium was a major part of the 2015 Women's World Cup, hosting nine matches including the final.
The 2026 tournament has been expanded to 48 teams, up from 32, with 80 games in total. The organizing committee's blueprint is for Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each with the U.S. hosting 60, including all games from the quarterfinals on.
A FIFA delegation met with Canada Soccer and representatives from the Canadian cities in Toronto in March 2020 before the pandemic started shutting sports down.
Canada, Mexico and the U.S. were selected over Morocco to host the 2026 tournament on June 13, 2018, by the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow.
The U.S. candidate cities are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Mexico's candidate cities are Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey.
— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2021.
The Canadian Press