‘I’m saddled with it’: Toronto mayor laments extra costs for FIFA World Cup

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow lamented the cost of the FIFA World Cup, saying that if she knew it would have cost so much she wouldn’t have made the choice to bid.

The original joint bid between Toronto and Vancouver to take part in the 2026 FIFA World Cup was made by Chow’s predecessor, John Tory, who called the opportunity “a good investment.”

“It really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Tory said back in 2018 when the city was just a candidate. “This is a good investment for tourism, a good investment for sports, a good investment to put Toronto on the map.”

A city report recently revealed that tournament costs have increased by about $80 million, in part due to an extra game and inflation.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, Chow said that council has to bear the responsibility of hosting the tournament regardless of the financial challenges.

“I’m saddled with it,” she said when asked about the cost overruns. “I’m glad that we have this opportunity to host the FIFA World Cup. Would I want to see 380 million being spent on it? No.”

Chow added that she would also have gotten a locked and signed deal with both the federal and provincial governments before making the bid.

At the same time, she says the bids were successful and now it’s time to “get people excited.”

“Let’s try to control the costs as much as we can and make the whole FIFA World Cup process transparent and that everything is done responsibly,” she said, noting that the stadium needs time to be prepared and contracts need to be signed.

The Ontario government has pledged $97 million in funding to support the tournament, and the federal government has also promised to pitch in—although it’s unclear how much.

When asked by CTV News Toronto whether the province will provide more funding considering the ballooning costs, the answer was no.

“Our total commitment will not exceed $97 million,” a spokesperson for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.

“The decision to make this one-time investment was made after exercising due diligence and following careful review and consideration.”

With an original estimate of $300 million, the city had pledged to cover about $90 million on its own.

Chow has suggested sponsorships and private partnerships as a way to make up some of the new revenue.

The FIFA World Cup is expected to provide a gross domestic product benefit of about $392 million for Toronto and $456 million for Ontario.

With files from The Canadian Press