A Calgary 2026 Olympic Winter Games Could Cost Almost (USD) $3.5 Billion

Preliminary estimates released by the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) Monday in a presentation to the city council revealed that almost (CAD figures) $4.6 billion (USD $3.5 billion) would be required to fund the cost of the proposed Calgary 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

Revenue from Games operations would net the organizing committee $2.2 billion (USD $1.67 billion) leaving $2.4 billion (USD $1.81) to be funded from other sources.

A statement from the City said “CBEC’s funding requirement is reduced by the ability to re-use existing venues, eliminating the need to build multiple new facilities in favour of upgrading the same infrastructure used in 1988.”

Despite existing venues from the last Games, construction of at least one new hockey arena will be required.

Leveraging the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Agenda 2020 that allows more flexibility when planning the Games has given cities like Calgary the opportunity to significantly cut costs.  Last year reports estimated the cost to organize the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games sped past USD $10 billion while in 2014 the Sochi Games were estimated at over USD $51 billion.  These figures include capital infrastructure builds and upgrade costs, amounts the IOC would prefer not reported.

“I am confident when I say that the Board and staff at CBEC have diligently reviewed all aspects of bidding and hosting a prospective 2026 Games, and the numbers we are sharing today accurately represent the current situation,” said Rick Hanson, CBEC Chair.

The CBEC numbers show that operating costs alone would exceed the operating revenues by $425 million (USD $321 million).

Recognizing the uncertainties when budgeting for an event nine years out, the CBEC included a significant cost contingency of $450 million (USD $340 million), including $235 million for operations, as well as “$135 million (USD $102 million) in endowments for sport programming and to ensure sustainable facility operations post-Games.”

“One of the things we identified from looking at some prior Olympic Games was the failure to account for post-Games operation and maintenance of facilities in their budgets,” Hanson said Monday.

“While this adds cost, our Board felt it was a necessary addition to a prospective budget.”

The CBEC estimated that the IOC will contribute approximately $700 million (USD $529) in cash to the Games organizing committee as its share of broadcast revenue, while another $820 million (USD $620) could be generated through a domestic sponsorship program.

Estimated ticket sales from the events would bring in $320 million (USD $242 million).

Research undertaken by the Conference Board of Canada and Deloitte LLP for the CBEC indicated that between $2.2 to $2.6 billion ( USD 1.7 to 2 billion) could be added to Canada’s GDP, and approximately $500 million (USD $378) in tax revenues would be spread through the three levels of government.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) meets with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi on December 21, 2016 (Photo: Twitter @JustinTrudeau)

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) meets with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi on December 21, 2016 (Photo: Twitter @JustinTrudeau)

Next month the IOC membership will debate changes to the 2026 bid process at an extraordinary Session to be held July 11 and 12 in Lausanne, Switzerland.  A panel of four IOC Vice Presidents are expected to propose reforms that could help decrease the costs of bidding and provide a more collaborative process.

Earlier this month IOC President Thomas Bach discussed some of the changes at a press conference indicating that the campaign duration would be reduced from two to one year in length,

The CBEC said it will integrate these new IOC changes into its final report that will be published, as scheduled, on July 24th.

So far only Sion in Switzerland has officially launched a bid for the 2026 Games, but that city will likely need to survive a referendum next year over funding the Games.

Popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi fully backs the project, but he is up for re-election for his third term on October 16.  Nenshi stressed that funding from the Provincial and Federal governments still needs to be secured.

Other cities interested in lodging bids are past hosts Innsbruck and Sapporo as well as Erzurum in Turkey.  Almaty in Kazakhstan was runner-up to Beijing in the 2022 Winter Games bid and could also be considered a contender in 2026.

Interested cities will be able to join the Observer’s Program for bid cities at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games in February, and the formal process will likely launch in the weeks following.  The IOC will elect the winning city in its Session in 2019.

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone is a senior editor, award-winning journalist and author, covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. He is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians. Follow him @enotsgnivil