Calgary urged to wait for more details before deciding on 2026 Olympic bid

The City of Calgary is being urged to wait for more details from the International Olympic Committee before deciding whether to bid for the 2026 Games.

The 17-member Calgary Bid Exploration Committee has concluded that it’s feasible for the host of the 1988 Winter Games to have another turn, but recommends Calgary take more time to determine whether it’s a good idea.

In a presentation to city council on Monday, CBEC chairman Rick Hanson said the details of how the IOC may help Calgary reduce its costs — as well as what will be in the host city agreement — need to be fleshed out.

When the committee was formed, it was expecting a September deadline for Calgary to decide on a bid.

But the IOC has extended the invitation phase for 2026 bids, so the city has another year to mull it over.

“We didn’t feel that we should rush to a conclusion or any kind of recommendation without considering all current and relevant facts,” Hanson told councillors.

“And sometimes these current and relevant facts arrived very late in the game.”

He said it’s reasonable to expect the city will have the information it needs by early next year.

So far IOC officials have been accommodating and have shown interest in the debate underway in Calgary, he said.

“At the end of the day you need to start negotiations and conversations from the position of respect and good faith and right now we’ve got good faith,” Hanson told reporters.

“We’ve got the belief that they want to see successful bids come forward.”

The bid exploration committee told city council last month that the price tag to hold the 2026 Games would be about $4.6 billion. It said the Games would generate almost half that in revenue, but another $2.4 billion would be needed.

Hanson said Ottawa could fund up to half the shortfall if certain criteria are met. Without the support of the federal and provincial governments, a bid would be a no-go, he added.

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., cost $7.7 billion.

Calgary’s estimate is lower in part because the city could reuse venues from 1988.

Sion, Switzerland, and Innsbruck, Austria, are among Calgary’s potential rivals for a 2026 bid.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s not expecting to see a draft host city contract until after next year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea

“So it’s a bit anticlimactic, really. We’ve done all this work to get to this point, but it’s a bit hurry up and wait,” he said.

“I suspect that council will probably make the decision to say, ‘We’ve done this great work. Let’s put it on the shelf, pens down for a little while. Let’s see what the IOC comes up with.’”

The city’s administration is to make its recommendation at council next week, and Nenshi is expecting they, too, will call for a pause.

The committee says it has produced 5,400 pages of analysis. The work came in about $2 million under its $5-million budget.

A motion put forward by Coun. Sean Chu to have a plebiscite on the Olympic bid was defeated 13-2 on Monday, with many councillors saying there is not enough information to even know what question to ask.

Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith, who was recently appointed to the IOC, was in Calgary to observe Monday’s session and said she thinks Calgary would do a terrific job hosting.

“I think Calgary has shown what it can do in the past, with the Games in 1988, how they pulled everything together with the floods, how they really have a can-do attitude.”

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