News / Calgary

City of Calgary to explore bid on 2026 Winter Olympics

Council authorizes spending up to $5M on researching cost of a bid

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and still has a lot of infrastructure that could reduce the cost of a bid. A torch from the 1988 Olympics is pictured here.

Metro File

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and still has a lot of infrastructure that could reduce the cost of a bid. A torch from the 1988 Olympics is pictured here.

Can’t you feel it?

That’s the feeling of the City of Calgary embarking on a long and possibly expensive journey towards a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics - 38 years after the city's successful 1988 Winter Games.

But it’s a small gamble now that could have big payoffs later, according to some city councillors.

Calgary City Council approved spending up to $5 million Monday night on a 15-month bid exploration phase.

About $1 million of that money could be raised by private citizens who believe strongly in the project.

The numbers were laid out for council– first behind closed doors and then again in council chambers for the sake of the media – by Marco De Iaco, executive director of the Calgary Sport Tourism Authority (CSTA).

The CSTA’s pitch focused first and foremost on the economic benefits.

“The report states that the games to Calgary could generate $3.7 billion in added GDP to the Alberta Economy, $2.6 billion of additional labour income, and the creation or support of 40,000 jobs,” said De Iaco.

He said other spinoff possibilities could be endless in tourism dollars and the good publicity that would come from having the world media in town for a few weeks.

The pitch hinges on new, lighter expectations from the International Olympic Committee known as Agenda 2020. That plan will supposedly have a more transparent, less costly bidding process, and will encourage reusing existing facilities – something Calgary's fortunate to have maintained since the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

CSTA chair Doug Mitchell addressed council and suggested the city’s name would stand out among other world cities that might also be bidding.

“The IOC has already asked the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee) if they thought we would be putting a bid forward for Calgary,” said Mitchell. “So I think the past games and the opportunities we have based on reputation, make a very significant difference on us bidding.”

The only two councillors to vote against the exploration money were Couns. Druh Farrell and Sean Chu – Shawn Keating was not present for the vote.

Farrell said she was worried about confusing the province on its project priorities with already limited funds.

“I also have a worry about the IOC,” she said. “It’s a deeply, deeply corrupt organization.”

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Mayor Naheed Nenshi made it clear that this idea has been brewing for some time.

“What council heard today is that it’s time. It’s time to explore this bid in detail.”

He promised a transparent process that will have many off-ramps if things go sour.

“We will, as always, make the decision in public. We will make the decision using the best possible data,” said the mayor.

If the city of Calgary does decide to bid on the 2026 winter Olympics in 2019, it at least has the website locked down.

First reserved in 2012, both calgary2026.com and calgary2026.ca are currently registered to the City of Calgary, according to the whois domain web registry.

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