Five members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are in Calgary as the City considers submitting a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games but the cost of their trip is not coming at the expense of taxpayers.

“The IOC has a new process that they’ve never actually done before as part of a bid where they send experts to the candidate cities," explained Kyle Ripley, director of the Calgary 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic bid for the City of Calgary. "They will come and evaluate our preliminary thoughts on our bid and give us feedback on that.”

In the past, the IOC would send a Candidature Committee to evaluate bidding cities but the group did not provide feedback or support during the visits and the potential host city was also on the hook for expenses. The organization is covering the costs and will also provide city committees with resources and supports to help strengthen possible bids.

“This is a first where the IOC is paying their own way here," said Ripley. "They’re paying for their hotels, they’re paying for their transportation, they’re paying for the meeting room, they’re paying for any meals that are required. They’re paying the entire way both for themselves and for us. Historically, that would have been reversed.”

“We’re charged with developing a bid and keeping our costs as reasonable as possible and that’s a real benefit for Calgary’s bid in terms of reducing our costs.”

The IOC members have been accompanied by two members of the Canadian Olympic Committee, a representative of the Government of Alberta and an official with the Government of Canada. Additional IOC members are expected to arrive in Calgary later this week to tour the potential venues for competitions, the broadcast centre and housing for athletes and members of the media.

“The new agenda '2020' by the IOC, they’re encouraging cities to not build new facilities. They want to utilize existing facilities and encouraging to look at facilities that are outside of the city, outside of our province and even outside of the country if need be.”

According to Ripley, the bid committee has identified three other cities that have declared interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Olympic Games but the IOC has not confirmed which cities are in the running. Ripley says the competition includes:

  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Seeland, Switzerland
  • Sapporo, Japan

“They call this the dialogue phase so we’re having a dialogue with the IOC right now," said Ripley. "They’re doing that with all interested cities. In October of this year, the IOC will make a decision around which cities they feel have demonstrated the ability to bid, and have a reasonable bid, and they will then invite those cities to participate in the candidature process which will begin in October and with the formal bid submission sometime in January of 2019.”

In November of 2017, Calgary city council directed the bid committee to secure a funding commitment to the bid, not for the games, from the provincial and federal levels of government.  Ripley says the estimated cost of a bid would be in the neighbourhood of $30 million and the preferred funding model would see each of the three levels of government contribute roughly a third. The committee hopes to return to council with the commitment prior to the end of January.

The meetings with the IOC members are scheduled to conclude on Friday.

With files from CTV's Brad MacLeod