An Olympic-Sized Fork in the Road

Should (or could) Calgary host the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2026? That’s a question Calgarians have been mulling over for some time now. On Monday Council will be faced with an interesting crossroads – do we continue this process, or do we take the off ramp?

Council had previously given $5M in funding to the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) to explore the feasibility of an Olympic bid. I was supportive of that move. If Council is going to make the best decision possible, we need to have the best information possible. CBEC concluded that Calgary could feasibly make a bid for the Olympics – the question remains, should we?

On Monday Council will be faced with a new ask from Administration. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has changed a few timelines in the bid process. We now need to deliver a bid book nearly 6 months earlier than we had initially planned for. Administration will be coming before Council to request nearly $2M in additional funding to go with a left over of $1.2M from the originally funding commitment made to CBEC. This funding would go towards preparing Calgary for an Olympic bid.

For my part, I’ll be going into this conversation with an open mind. I think the Olympics could be fabulous for our city. But it’s the economics that we need to be absolutely sure of. If we cannot make an economic case for the Olympics, we should not saddle Calgarians with an unspecified level of debt for an even that would last a few weeks.

I have a few outstanding questions that will need to be answered on Monday:

  • Can we make an economic case for the games? This economic case needs to factor in operating and capital cost requirements and also identify how we protect Calgarians from possible cost overruns. Will the Olympics bring money to Calgary or will it lead to large amounts of debt?
  • Are there other ways for us to prepare a bid book? Why does City Administration need to lead this process? Could we reform a smaller version of CBEC and allow them to make use of the left over $1.2M from the previous funding allocation?
  • Do we really want to be doing business with the IOC? I don’t need to go into detail about the reputation the IOC has. Council and Administration had choreographed a bidding process based on the timelines that had been provided by the IOC. Now those timelines are being changed. That should come as a red flag for Council.

I turn the question over to Ward 12 residents – what do you think? We have a lot to consider as we go into our discussion on Monday, and feedback from Calgarians should be a big part of that. Let me know how you feel by contacting me HERE.