A city committee is relying heavily on Olympic Games from years past to help decide whether or not it’s a good idea for Calgary to submit a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
City council invested $5 million toward the group, which formed in September 2016.
The group has investigated facilities, stakeholders, community impact, risk and finances and says the fact Calgary has hosted an Olympic Games before also helps.
“We hosted the games in ’88,” says Calgary Bid Exploration Committee chair Rick Hanson. “We've got venues that are still in really good shape, that are still being used for world class competitions, so what about upgrading them.”
One venue that would need to be rebuilt, on a different site, is the ski jump.
It’s currently 90 metres but competitors now jump 120 metres and if it’s built higher on the current site; competitors will be landing on the highway.
The arena is another issue facing the committee.
The number of sports and athletes competing at a winter Olympics has doubled since 1988 and Calgary would need two big arenas to accommodate the games.
The committee will not get into the politics of getting a new arena built and who would pay for it; it simply says one would have to be built by 2026.
The 1988 games cost $829 million but it was also the first Olympics to turn a profit.
Nearly 30 years later, some say that investment still pays dividends.
A city report found Winsport provided $120 million worth of positive impact in Calgary in 2015.
“It all starts with the facilities and the whole infrastructure and the community spirit,” says Winsport CEO Barry Heck. “It's a tremendous testament to what a successful Olympic games can do and bring to our city.”
The average price to host an Olympic Games now is about $3.2 billion; half of that is for facilities, the other half for security.
“This is the benchmark that we look at, now let's drill down to what the experience would be for Calgary and what the difference between those circumstances would be,” says Calgary Bid Exploration Committee General Manager Brian Hahn.
A recent Mainstreet Research poll found 61% of Calgarians support a bid, 28% do not and 11% are unsure.
“I think it was great when it was here in 88 and I think it will be good for the economy of the city, I'm all for it,” says Shelly Swartout.
“Things are kind of tough right now. I think we should focus on that then get the Olympics. A lot of people say it would help but I'm not convinced,” Braden Muenchrath.
“Whatever decision is made, we're going forward with the full knowledge of what's required to do this or not and if it is a no, then it's because of really good solid reasons that people can look at and say that makes sense,” says Hanson. “If it's yes, it looks like we can do this then it's because people will have the numbers right in front of them that will answer their questions.”
The committee submits if final report to city council in July and a decision will be made whether or not Calgary will bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee needs to know Calgary’s intentions by September but the IOC won’t announce which city is hosting those games until 2019.