Calgary city council moves forward with plebiscite on Olympic bid
City councillors have voted in favour of proceeding with the Olympic bid process and will gather input from Calgarians with a plebiscite in November.
On Tuesday evening, council voted 12 – 3 to continue with a bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Councillors Sean Chu, Joe Magliocca and Druh Farrell all voted against the plan.
“We don’t even know how much the provincial government is going to put in or if they’re going to do it at all,” said Chu. “We don’t have any numbers and we are the gatekeepers.”
Calgary 2026 presented its Draft Hosting Plan Concept to council earlier in the day and revealed that it would cost an estimated $5.23 billion to put on the games in eight years’ time.
Taxpayer would contribute $3 billion and the rest would be covered by the IOC, sponsorships and ticket sales.
A new arena for the Flames is not part of the plan and instead, the Saddledome would be renovated and reused.
“When the IOC came and did their site visit they said it was adequate for the 50 days of the games and I would agree with that,” said Calgary 2026 CEO, Mary Moran. “I can’t comment on whether the Saddledome is adequate for a nine month, 40 game season for the Flames.”
The plan is to build a new fieldhouse to host figure skating and short track speed skating and also a new, smaller arena to host hockey.
“That fieldhouse is really important, because remember what the fieldhouse is. It’s a FIFA arena, it’s for soccer 12 months of the year, it’ll have tons of seats in it. It’s for track and field, it’s really a multi-sport fieldhouse that’s a very big deal,” said Nenshi.
One economist says the price tag doesn’t make sense and the payoff isn’t worth it but if the city does put forward a bid, it has a good chance of winning.
“Calgary will get it and the IOC wants it and now that Calgary’s put out the numbers, if the plebiscite comes back in favour and strongly so, Calgary will get the 2026 Olympics,” said Moshe Lander, Sports Economist, Concordia University.
Public engagement will get underway on September 20th and a plebiscite will be held on November 13th.
“50 percent plus one will mean something, 59 percent will mean more, 42 percent will mean less, so I think that the decision will rest with Calgarians and we are looking at a 50 percent threshold,” said Councillor Evan Woolley.
No YYC Olympics says it is disappointed with council’s decision and that the city did not consider the ‘current economic certainty’ and failed to ensure Calgarians won’t carry the burden of cost overruns.
“With cost sharing unknown, City Council failed today to adhere to its own, unanimously-supported principle to ensure Calgarians won’t carry any cost overruns associated with hosting the Olympics,“ said the group in a statement. “It is disappointing that City Council did not give due consideration to this current economic uncertainty, as well as cold hard facts like the 27% downtown office vacancy which is the highest in the country, high debt levels at all three levels of government, including record-high long-term debt carried by the City of Calgary which reached $3.07 Billion at year end 2017.”
Nenshi says council could still pull the plug, if the plebiscite passes, if it doesn’t believe it’s in the best interests of Calgarians.
“I am not as much pro-Olympics as I am pro a great deal for Calgary and that deal has to be great. So if there is a point where that great deal just is not surfacing, before or even after the plebiscite, if the plebiscite passes, then certainly council would still say, you know, this isn’t right for the citizens of Calgary and we’re going to pull out of the process,” he said.
For more on Calgary’s potential bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, click HERE.
Estimated cost to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.