The Alberta and federal governments have agreed to support Calgary’s potential bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, but only if the city holds a successful plebiscite.
Calgary has spent millions exploring a potential bid and while city council voted earlier in March to continue with the process, that was contingent on the province and Ottawa chipping in to cover the $30-million bid. The city wanted those costs split roughly three ways.
All three levels of government issued a statement on Thursday confirming they would form a bid corporation, but Marion Nader, a spokeswoman for Alberta’s minister of culture and tourism, said that will only happen with public support.
“All parties agreed there should be a plebiscite,” she wrote in an e-mail, adding that specific details about such a vote would be worked out later. “The Alberta government is committed to continuing to work with the city and the federal government to ensure that any possible bid makes sense for Alberta and that will include meaningful and robust public engagement to assess public support for Calgary’s bid.”
Calgary had voted against a proposed plebiscite months ago, when the idea was first raised by councillor Sean Chu. Earlier this month, council revisited the idea and chose to postpone any motion on a plebiscite until April 10 to allow city administrators to determine how to format a plebiscite and how much it would cost.
Surprised to hear the plebiscite idea was now good to go, Mr. Chu said he was “happy we’re going to engage the public. It’s a win for the public.”
The bid corporation will continue to develop hosting plans and analyze costs, according to a joint statement from the governments.
“We have a strong legacy of sport in this city and we know we can host a great Games,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in the statement.
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.
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.
With files from The Canadian Press