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Calgary Olympic bid feasibilty draft report pushed to April, January update coming

Draft report on Olympic feasibility now pushed to April while councillors get closed-door briefings

The public will have to wait for some time before seeing the big Olympic feasibility picture.

Metro File Photo

The public will have to wait for some time before seeing the big Olympic feasibility picture.

Though the city pledged to keep the process transparent, don’t expect any big news on Calgary’s Olympic bid until the snow thaws.

The city’s previous plan was to keep Calgarians in the loop this month, and again in April, before council’s final go-or-no-go decision in July on bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics. However, the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) opted to drop the draft report expected at the end of 2016.

“That schedule was developed with the idea that there would be other Canadian cities potentially making a bid,” CBEC spokesman Sean Beardow said.

“No other Canadian cities expressed interest, so timelines could be changed a little bit and allow more time for the exploration work.”

Further, Beardow said the timelines were made before the committee was developed in September 2016. He said this month council will hear their work plan and accomplishments to date.

Included in that is how they'll be spending their $5 million budget and how they plan to deliver an unbiased review. More details of the committee’s findings will surface in April, then they'll have a few months of deliberations before June’s decision day.

All the while, administration (who have a direct line to the committee) are filling in council, behind closed doors, at several lunch hour meetings where details on the committees' progress are shared.

Kyle Ripley, the city’s project sponsor and director of recreation, said this is normal procedure for the city, who often brief councillors on complex topics before meetings.

“We generally like to sit down with councillors and give them an opportunity to review the information, ask some questions and we can provide them answers,” Ripley said. “Just so they’re better informed.”

He said the meeting was a precursor to the council meeting on Jan. 23, when a report from CBEC will come forward, although he noted it’s not clear whether that will be a public report or private.

“You can appreciate that some of this information needs to remain confidential,” said Ripley. “When we consider it’s a competitive process, we don’t really want to lose our competitive edge. But certainly we understand the need to remain as transparent as possible.”

Coun. Sean Chu was at one of those meetings, but unable to tell Metro exactly what was said. He noted it was a confidential meeting. But he did give some thoughts on the process so far.

“I can’t talk about what’s being said,” said Chu. “The process is good; I have all the respect for the chair, I used to work for Rick Hansen, but my position is it’s the wrong time to do this.”

Chu voted no on spending the $5 million for the CBEC budget.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi wasn’t aware of the meetings when asked by reporters, but he did say the city’s committed to having an open conversation about the bid exploration.

“I hope that we won't have to move on the deadline for council to make a go-no-go decision this spring or early this summer,” said Nenshi, noting they would have to ensure the public has adequate time to respond.

“In reality though, let's remember that there are some circuit breakers here, and if, in fact, we learn that there's no interest from the provincial and federal governments on this we really can't proceed regardless.”

So far, he’s broached the topic with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who he said didn’t give any commitments, but was interested in learning what the CBEC finds.

As for Premier Rachel Notley, Mayor Nenshi hasn’t heard anything yet.

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