October 18, 2009
Jen Yeaman Photo
Toronto will host World Pride 2014 after winning a vote in Florida by leaders of gay and lesbian organizations around the globe.
The city’s World Pride committee thought they had won after the first vote Sunday, in which Toronto beat Stockholm, 77 votes to 61. The victory eliminated Stockholm but did not reach the two-thirds majority Toronto needed.
“It was a bit of a nail-biting experience,” said chair Mark Singh, about the three-hour wait for the results of a second yes-or-no vote for Toronto’s bid at the InterPride 2009 Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla.
When it was finally announced that the city won a 78 per cent margin of victory, meaning the festival will take place here, the crowd erupted in cheers, said Singh, who was “delighted” by the win.
“There’s so much support and excitement for this,” Singh told the Star.
The world event will be hosted simultaneously with Toronto’s Pride Week in the summer of 2014. The program for the festival includes a parade of nations as part of the opening ceremony and a human rights conference.
Toronto was represented in Florida by a 10-member delegation, including officials from Pride Toronto, organizers of the annual Pride Week, the Toronto Police Service, Pride Week sponsor TD Bank and Tourism Toronto.
The Toronto bid presentation took place Saturday and included addresses by David Whitaker, President of Tourism Toronto and Toronto Police Services LGBT Liaison Officer Constable Thomas Decker.
The committee was unable to complete the presentation after a request for a one-minute extension was denied by Stockholm.
It is now the second loss for Stockholm, Toronto’s main rival for the international political and cultural event, sponsored by gay leaders from around the world, after losing an earlier vote to host World Pride 2012, which London will host.
However, Stockholm’s committee was “very gracious,” and voted in favour of Toronto’s bid after being eliminated, said Singh.
“When it comes down to it, we are still all Pride,” said Singh. “Once the competition is over we go back to being friends.”
Organizers say Pride Week in Toronto last summer generated $100 million in business. Pride Toronto will need some financial support to put on the 2014 event.
Organizers estimate costs of the event will jump to $10 million, compared to the $4 million spent this year, but that would be more than offset by the injection of tourist dollars into the city.
Organizers also anticipate more funding from government and community sponsors, said Singh, adding that the victory may also mean more infrastructure investments into the areas that are very gay-friendly, such as Church-Wellesley.
The provincial government provided $350,000 for this year’s festivities, and Premier Dalton McGuinty has already provided a letter of support for the 2014 bid.
Toronto Pride bidders say the world event could draw an extra quarter-million people.
With files from Thandiwe Vela