News / Calgary

On the offensive: Naheed Nenshi says Olympic bid not 'already cooked up'

Calgary's 2026 Olympic bid exploration has been criticized by the public, and councillors, for already being a done deal.

Naheed Nenshi is shown in this file photo.

Staff / Metro

Naheed Nenshi is shown in this file photo.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is saying if the Olympic bid was a done deal, it would have been done long ago.

During a break from Tuesday's council meeting, the Calgary mayor had some harsh words for those trying to "get political advantage" by saying the bid has already been cooked up – despite a formal decision from councillors.

"Frankly, if it had already been cooked up, we would have cooked it up," he said. "Why would we go through all this process?"

The mayor just returned from a trip to Korea where he was given the inside scoop on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games and how they're being operated.

He said on that trip he was given a list of questions to ask the International Olympic Committee by fellow councillors, namely on the IOC's sincerity on reform, and he was much more comfortable with what he learned.

But Coun. Jeromy Faraks is calling for a referendum to see if Calgarians truly want to hold another round of the Winter Olympics in 2026. He's not keen on the idea, and suggested maybe 2030 would be a better approach for Calgary, so citizens and politicos can see the IOC's reforms in action.

"We're running short on time," said Farkas. "After so much time and money spent it's time to take this decision back to Calgarians, Calgarians deserve to make that final call."

Nenshi said he's not opposed to a plebescite, as long as there's enough details to give Calgarians a fair question – he wants numbers, and some specifics that aren't available yet.

"What would we have the referendum on? Do you like the Olympics? Do you like Tessa and Scott?" he said. "The referendum, if there were one, would have to be: this is how much it's going to cost, this is what we would get out of it, do you think this is a good use of our funding."

Farkas disagrees with the mayor, saying right now his biggest concern is the path dependency he sees the city heading down when it comes to actually bidding on the Olympics.

"So many countries and cities are running away from hosting the games," he said. "I think it's only prudent to stop, collect our thoughts and ensure this is something we're all aboard for as a city."

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