Council to vote Monday on Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid

The Olympic Rings in London. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Calgary city council will vote Monday whether to continue down the road of bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi wants to salvage a potential bid from "the ditch."

He wants to wait and find out if a bid would be a financial boon to the city that also hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.

"I think it’s fair to say it’s a bit in the ditch," Nenshi said Tuesday. "The question is, is it worth pulling it out of the ditch or not and I think it is.

"It’s not a good time to take the off-ramp. Give us until June to see the money and then we can take the off-ramp if the money doesn’t work.

"I think it would be a real shame for council to not to try to pull this thing out of the ditch between now and June."

City council has been wrestling with continuing work on a potential bid. A vote on a slate of recommendations to keep a bid on the table narrowly passed 8-6 in March.

Councillors on a priority and finance committee passed a motion 9-1 on Tuesday for council to state its support or non-support for a bid Monday.

"Let’s make this decision early before we spend more money, before we take the next big step," Coun. Druh Farrell said.

The price tag of a bid is estimated at $30 million with the city, provincial and federal governments splitting the cost roughly three ways.

The Canadian and Alberta governments have stated support for the formation of a bid corporation, with the provincial government in favour of holding a plebiscite to measure public support for the games.

"If there’s a deal to be had that Calgarians would like and allows us to maintain 40-year-old facilities and build them when there’s no other source of funding to do so, build facilities like a fieldhouse where there’s no other source of funding to do that, build affordable housing where there’s no other source of funding to do that, and it means billions of dollars of Calgary taxpayers money being returned to Calgary from the federal and provincial government, I’m willing to take that to the people," Nenshi said.

A city report said a plebiscite would cost just under $2 million and would be conducted between October and February 2019.

"The only thing I’ve said about a plebiscite is we’ve got to figure out who is paying for it and the timing has to be right, so the citizens have the information they need to make a decision," Nenshi said.

"The bid budget is $30 million, which doesn’t include a plebiscite."

The International Olympic Committee’s deadline to submit a bid is January 2019. The IOC will vote on the host city in September 2019.

"If the plebiscite starts to sneak too much in 2019, then I start to get nervous we’re spending a lot of throwaway money and I hate spending throwaway money," Nenshi said.

"I think something in the autumn, in the October time frame, makes sense to me logistically."

The committee heard Tuesday that Calgary has already spent approximately $6 million on exploring a bid. That sum includes the work of the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee.

CBEC estimated the cost of hosting the games at $4.6 billion with games revenue covering almost half.

But Kyle Ripley, the director of the city’s bid project team that continued CBEC’s work, told city council last month that estimate is likely too low when inflation, contingency and endowment funds are calculated.

The IOC said in January it would provide US$925 million to the successful 2026 bid city.

Other cities considering bids include Graz, Austria; Stockholm, Sweden; Sapporo, Japan; Erzurum, Turkey; Sion, Switzerland and a joint effort from Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin, Italy.

Sapporo (1972), Cortina d’Ampezzo (1956) and Turin (2006) have hosted the Winter Olympics before.


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