Calgary’s 2026 Olympic Bid Exploration Ends, Leaving Final Decision To City Council

The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC), a group assembled to investigate the feasibility of hosting the 2026 Olympic Winter Games, has officially ended operations after providing detailed reports and studies to the Calgary City Council.

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988
Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

The committee stopped short, however, at offering a recommendation on whether to file a bid with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when applications are due March 31 next year.  The CBEC instead determined a bid would be feasible, and provided guidelines on how elected officials can arrive at a decision, something they are expected to do early in 2018.

As a sign of efficiency, the group chaired by former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson returned CAD $1.7 million (USD $1.32 million) of the original CAD $5 million (USD $3.9 million) budgeted for the study back to the city coffers.  The work included hundreds of pages of detailed analyses and an intensive public survey that will be invaluable should the bid move forward.

Last month a general municipal election in Calgary returned Mayor Naheed Nanshi and most of the existing City Council back to their seats who had been split over whether a bid for the City’s second Games should move forward.

Nenshi supports a bid, but only if a list of financial conditions can be met.  Earlier this year the IOC suggested that Calgary’s initial budget of CAD $4.6 billion (USD $3.5 billion) could easily be reduced if the city implements new cost-cutting measures proposed as part of a reforms package.  Additionally, the IOC has rolled out the “Games Management 2020” program that it says can reduce operational costs by CAD $645 million (USD $500 million).

On Friday, the IOC told Sion’s 2026 bid that it need not carry an unlimited financial guarantee on operational costs, something IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi says underlines the new flexibility of his organization when it comes to hosting the Games.

Calgary officials are currently participating in the IOC’s dialogue phase of the bid process, where they are trying to gather more clarity around the requirements and risks of hosting, and provide City Council with additional information for their decision on whether the Games make financial sense for the city.

Along with Sion, other potential bidders include Stockholm, Nagano in Japan, and potentially an American city with interest from Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno-Tahoe.  Telemark in Norway, Erzurum in Turkey and Almaty in Kazakhstan have also expressed interest.

Innsbruck, Austria exited the race last month after losing a referendum.

Calgary hosted the Winter Games in 1988 and Canada last hosted the event in 2010 in Vancouver.  Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Games.

The IOC will elect a 2026 winner September 2019 in Milan, Italy.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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