Timelines tightening, braintrust assembling on Calgary’s potential 2026 bid

CALGARY — The people managing Calgary’s possible 2026 Winter Games bid are expected to be announced within days, but the search for a chief executive officer is taking longer.

The chair of Calgary 2026 said Monday three-quarters of the 21-member board of directors has been filled.

“I’m spending a lot of time right now trying to get to the right CEO,” Scott Hutcheson said Monday. “We’ve had many interviews to date and we’re working hard on that.”

Calgary 2026 is the bid corporation established earlier this month now taking over the work of analyzing and building a potential pitch for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary provides the foundation for another bid, but city council has reserved the right to withdraw from the 2026 bid process at any time.

An initial estimate on the price tag of hosting the 2026 Winter Games was $4.6 billion, but that figure is under review. The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., cost $7.7 billion.

Council heard Monday that even though the deadline to submit a 120-page bid book to the International Olympic Committee is January 2019, it must be completed by Dec. 18, 2018 to allow time for publication and translation.

A draft of the bid book’s content would need to be done by Aug. 17.

“I think we’ll hit the timelines,” Hutcheson said. “That work has been transferred over to Calgary 2026.

“We’ll hit the timelines that have been provided in the schedules, but it’s a lot of work and it’s got to be done fast.”

The CEO of Calgary 2026 will be the primary strategist on a bid, when that person is hired. Hutcheson says 15 or 16 board members will be announced later this week.

The board will have representation from the city, provincial and federal governments, Town of Canmore, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Indigenous communities, with at-large members the last to be appointed.

“I’d like to do an inventory of skills, which we intend to embark on tomorrow,” Hutcheson said.

“Once we understand what skills we’re missing or what gender diversification we’re missing from the appointments, we have the option of adding three more members to the board and that will give me a good sense of where we want to go with that.”

Hutcheson recently returned from meetings with the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, and said IOC executives will be in Calgary on Tuesday to consult with the bid corporation.

“These are a group of people I want to work with,” Hutcheson said. “We talk about the same value systems, we talk about sustainability, we talk about credibility, we talk about the youth movement, the spirit of the Olympics and we’re all on the same page.

“I think we’ve been credible in our past with the history of having two good Winter Games. They see we have work to do to get the best games bid forward and they’re trying to help us do that.”

The city and provincial and federal governments are splitting the cost of the bid corporation’s work estimated at $30 million.

As a condition of its funding, the province wants Calgary to hold a plebiscite gauging the public’s interest in hosting a second Winter Games. The plebiscite is expected to be held in November.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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