Skip to main content

Fans cheer during the opening ceremony of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

JONATHAN UTZ/AFP/Getty Images

Calgary is coming up on an off-ramp for the 2026 Winter Games as city council contemplates spending more money on a potential bid.

A project team comprised of city administration and consultants asked council Monday for $2-million to continue the work of the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee, which ended operations Oct. 31.

Council heard the rationale behind the ask and will decide next week whether to grant that request.

Story continues below advertisement

"My understanding from what we're hearing today is without the additional funding it will be very, very hard to actually move forward, so council needs to determine if they're in for a bit more here," Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

Council committed $5-million just over a year ago to CBEC, which concluded the price tag for hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games would be approximately $4.6-billion.

CBEC predicted Games revenue would cover almost the cost, but another $2.4-billion would be needed.

CBEC's work came in $1.5-million under budget. The savings were passed onto a city project team that has taken over assessing risk of hosting the Games.

Council wants a deep dive into addressing five areas before it greenlights a bid: capital costs; security; operating costs; finances; and financial guarantees.

Announcements by the International Olympic Committee since CBEC's report have changed timelines and altered the financial picture for cities interested in 2026.

The IOC will invite cities to bid in October, 2018, followed by bid submissions in January, 2019. The latter is six months earlier than the original deadline for bids in late 2019.

Story continues below advertisement

The IOC also announced last month it will contribute US$925-million to the successful bid city.

Calgary recreation director Kyle Ripley says the project team is essentially doing the preparation work of a bid corporation, and with timelines tightening, more money is needed to ensure Calgary will be successful if it decides to bid.

He compared the process to a marathon with October the start line and January the finish line.

"It's a four-month race," Ripley said. "Without that investment, we believe it will not be possible to proceed with a competitive bid.

"We recommend a higher level of commitment to significantly improve our chances of winning the marathon. Currently we are not positioned well to be getting ready for race day.

"If we continue at our current pace, we run the risk of showing up not prepared for the race."

Story continues below advertisement

A report submitted to council estimated a bid would cost between $25-million and $30-million.

"It's council's choice, it's Calgary's choice, but if we choose to bid, we'll win," Nenshi declared. "The question is, is it right for Calgary right now?

"If it's right for Calgary, then we will go all guns in. I think that we will have an incredibly powerful bid and I think we'll win."

With fewer cities interested in hosting Olympic Games, the IOC has been overhauling timelines and rules for bidding and hosting to make both cheaper and easier to take on.

So those working on what a Calgary bid might look like have had to contend with a changing landscape. Host city contracts for 2026 won't be released by the IOC until July.

Nenshi had hoped it would be March after the conclusion of the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Story continues below advertisement

"As I've said many times, the numbers have to work," he said. "If the numbers in the host city contract don't work, we stop.

"There's still off-ramps. There's still an opportunity to say 'no."' Calgary and IOC officials are scheduled to meet in January for consultations, but the city isn't required to make any presentations or guarantees during this "dialogue" or "invitation" phase.

"One thing that we've really heard from the International Olympic Committee is that they're interested our candidature," Nenshi said. "They want to support us in putting the best bid possible forward."

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., cost $7.7-billion and the bid cost $34-million.

Calgary's costs to host a Winter Games is lower in part because the city can reuse venues from the 1988 Winter Games, CBEC chair Rick Hanson has said.

Sion, Switzerland and Stockholm, Sweden are the other cities expressing the strongest interest in 2026. Innsbruck, Austria, dropped out after a recent referendum.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter