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A slice of Calgary’s underdeveloped inner city could morph into a neighbourhood for thousands of people should the city get the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

The federal government is demanding Calgary quickly present details – including solid business arguments – tied to the city's 2026 Winter Olympic intentions if it expects Ottawa to chip in millions of dollars to help finance the bidding process early in the new year.

Kent Hehr, the federal Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, said Calgary has not provided Ottawa with an Olympic proposal. Mr. Hehr said he wrote a letter to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi pressing him for information last week.

The minister said he is pleased when Canadian cities want to hold international sporting competitions, but the government will withhold money until aspiring hosts make convincing cases.

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It will cost between $25-million and $30-million to bid for the Games, a sum that would be shared by Calgary, the Alberta government and Ottawa.

"This has to make sense both in an economic and real fashion," Mr. Hehr said.

Mr. Hehr's request comes as Calgary bureaucrats reconsider the existing Olympic master plan and have presented municipal politicians with an alternative budget to the 2026 Olympic Winter Games that is half a billion dollars higher than the prediction now on the table. The city says the new budget is not meant to replace the existing proposal, but it does indicate the city is far from making final decisions on key elements such as venues.

On Monday, Calgary's elected officials gave city staff a tight deadline: The bureaucrats have until early next year to convince the federal and provincial governments to help finance the bidding process before local politicians give staff all the money they requested to study a potential bid.

Mr. Hehr said he believes the government can make a speedy decision, but not without a meaningful plan. "We need to see an actual proposal put forward by the city, but today we just haven't seen that," he said. "We haven't been engaged with a business case yet. We can't run before we walk."

Earlier this year, a study group known as the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee estimated it would cost $4.6-billion to hold the 2026 Games. CBEC's analysis runs roughly 5,400 pages and assumes Calgary and neighbouring mountain communities will play host to all the events.

Mr. Hehr said he has not examined those documents.

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CBEC has since been disbanded and city staff are now overseeing the process. On Monday, councillors granted them permission to review venues outside the city in an effort to lessen the financial burden of holding the Games.

The Alberta government said it needs more information before providing money to ensure an Olympic bid is in the best interests of Albertans.

Calgary's bureaucrats have presented council with a rough sketch of an alternative to CBEC's proposal.

The new option predicts it would cost roughly $5.1-billion to hold the Games, suggesting the city may rip up key parts of CBEC's venue plan.

CBEC, for example, suggested spending $26.05-million to temporarily reconfigure the Stampede grounds into a place suitable for the opening, closing and medal ceremonies. City staff's new outline does not reference the Stampede grounds, but allots $50-million to spruce up McMahon Stadium, although it does not indicate why. The football stadium, which held the opening and closing ceremonies when Calgary was host of the 1988 Winter Olympics, is not part of CBEC's blueprints.

The revised budget includes the full cost to build a field house near the University of Calgary, which was part of CBEC's facilities plan, but not in its budget. This is a big reason why the alternative budget is larger than the original, according to Kyle Ripley, Calgary's Director of Recreation.

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The staff document was supposed to be confidential, but it was released publicly after it was referenced during a public portion of Monday's council meeting. The document is not meant to replace CBEC's proposal, but is, instead, a sample of what may be put before council, Mr. Ripley said.

"It is similar to an architect when they are thinking about designing a house – they are going to draw a number of different facades before they come up with one that their client is happy with," he said.

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