Canadian, Alberta governments backing possible Calgary bid for 2026 Games

Calgary took another step towards bidding for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games when the federal and provincial governments announced they’d support the formation of a bid corporation Thursday.

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi had said a bid couldn’t happen without financial backing from the Canadian and Alberta governments.

Calgary wants a three-way split on the cost of a bid estimated at $30 million.

A bid corporation will continue to develop hosting plans and analyze costs, according to a joint statement released Thursday by the three levels of government.

“This partnership is an exciting step towards determining if a bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is right for Calgary,” Nenshi said in the statement.

“We have a strong legacy of sport in this city and we know we can host a great Games, and now, alongside our partners in the government of Alberta and the government of Canada, we can continue to figure out if a 2026 bid is the best interests of our citizens.”

Calgary has already spent $6 million on exploring a potential bid. The city didn’t want to commit any more money to the process until the other two levels of government indicated they were on board.

“Participating in the bid process will allow us to further examine the costs associated with hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games and ensure they are carefully balanced around the needs and expectations of Albertans, within the greater context of Alberta’s economic recovery,” Alberta Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda said.

An Alberta government spokesperson said before a final decision is made the question of whether to make a bid would be put to voters in a plebiscite.

“All parties agreed there should be a plebiscite,” the official said in an email. “Details on what that will look like will be decided later.”

The International Olympic Committee will invite cities to bid for 2026 in October with the deadline to do so by January. The winning city will be announced in September, 2019.

“We are always happy to see cities and sport partners showing interest in hosting national and international sport competitions, as these events support our athletes, our communities and our economy, and help galvanize a country around the power of sport,” Canada’s sports minister Kirsty Duncan said.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said it was pleased with the announcement by the three levels of government.

“Today is a very important step forward for the City of Calgary and for our collective efforts as we thoroughly assess the opportunity and impact of hosting an Olympic Games,” Chris Overholt, CEO of the committee said in a release.

Calgary was the host city of the 1988 Winter Games.

The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee concluded last year that a 2026 bid would cost $4.6 billion.

But Kyle Ripley, the director of the city’s bid project team, told city council earlier this month that estimate will likely be too low when inflation, contingency and endowment funds are calculated.

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