Calgary Dinos athlete Alex James leads the men’s pack at Beacon Hill during the U Sports 2017 national cross country championships. (Jim Finlayson photo)

Victoria to bid for World Cross-Country Championships

IAAF 2023 worlds could bring upwards of $10 million to region

A local group passionate about running is creating a bid for Greater Victoria to host the 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Cup and the 2023 World Cross Country running championships.

The Westin Bear Mountain Resort would host the race on a cross-country course that 2003 Pan Am Games marathon silver medalist Bruce Deacon helped design.

“There’s a lot to like,” said Deacon, who is part of the bid team. “The cross-country worlds are the most competitive distance running event in the world because you bring people from various disciplines together.”

Economically, the event is a windfall, he added.

Hosting the Pan Ams would also showcase their bid for the worlds.

“The last estimated economic impact for the worlds, in Uganda, was close to $10 million,” Deacon said. “That’s a great thing for the region, it really brings in a ton of people.”

It also brings people in at a marquee time, February, when the tourist season is down.

The bid group is forming a society called the Victoria International Cross Country Association (VICCA), to partner with the interested stakeholders in town. Their Pan Am bid is due by the end of December against just one other city, Vancouver, Deacon said.

“Bear Mountain has a fantastic course,” Deacon said. “We’ve been over it with the Bear Mountain golf director, and we feel it’s a world class course, better than what Vancouver has to offer. Plus we have the on-site advantage of hosting the athletes at Bear Mountain.”

The Pan Ams will draw 21 countries from North, Central and South America while the World Championships would draw 750 athletes including elites, juniors and seniors.

The proposed course is a two-kilometre loop that runs around the outside of two holes and is a very difficult course, Deacon said. Cross-country races can have a loop of 1,500 to 2,000 metres. Junior women do six km, junior men do eight km, senior women eight km and senior men 10 km, all on grass and scrub.

Victoria has a history with cross-country. The University of Victoria boasts one of the best cross-country teams every year and hosted the U Sports national championship at Beacon Hill Park last year. In the 1980s, the national team held team trials to decide the final members at Beacon Hill Park.

The worlds haven’t been in North America since 1992 when they were hosted in Boston.

“We want to help return cross-country to its former glory as the crown jewel in athletics. The venue we have identified, with its five-star hotel resort as an athlete’s village and the stunning course – not only for spectators but for athletes too – will absolutely be a game changer for cross-country,” said bid committee chair Christopher Kelsall.

“The motivator is, this is a huge legacy for young kids to watch the very best athletes in the world race right in front of you,” said Deacon. “It will breath life into the sport and create a legacy for the city.”

reporter@saanichnews.com


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