Nenshi confident Calgary can win Olympic bid
Administration to request $2M to keep pursuing games at next council meeting
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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is confident of Calgary’s ability to win the competition to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
“If we choose to bid, we’ll win,” said the mayor to reporters outside council chambers.
On Monday, councillors were getting a presentation from administration on a pending ask of approximately $2 million to keep work on the bid moving forward.
Nenshi said he wanted to give councillors a week to be ready for the request, and to give administration time to answer any questions councillors might have for them.
It’s looking more and more likely that Calgary will submit a bid for the 2026 winter Olympics, even as more councillors grow skeptical of the plan.
“I’ve rarely seen a presentation more predisposed towards an outcome, so I’m just assuming that you’re recommending a bid,” said Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell. “You’ve highlighted the benefits. I see no details on risks. And the risks are great.”
Along with Farrell, who has been the most outspoken critic of an Olympic bid, Councillors Sean Chu, Peter Demong and Jeromy Farkas all suggested they could not support the continued pursuit of the games.
Administration officials explained that in their opinion, the cost of hosting the games can be brought very close to the capital costs the city would need to make anyway on upgrading and maintaining the legacy infrastructure from the 1988 games.
The value would be in social returns for hosting the games.
Coun. Ward Sutherland called that a game changer.
“Really it’s becoming revenue neutral in terms of our investment,” he said.
While Nenshi believes Calgary could form a winning bid, doing so would take more money – about $25-30 million according to the mayor.
He said that cost would not be picked up by the city alone.
“I think at that point, where we’re moving forward with a formal bid, we would need a commitment from the other orders of government, both to the bid costs as a sign of good faith, as well as to the capital costs and security costs,” said Nenshi.
He also suggested there are still off-ramps for the city to back out of the pursuit.
"If that means council has spent a little bit more money before we stop, that is what it is," he said.