City Council Defers Plebiscite Decision Over Calgary 2026 Olympic Games Bid To April 10

Only hours after Calgary City Council voted to extend Calgary’s 2026 Olympic and Paralympic bid exploration by providing funding contingent on expected Federal and Provincial financial support, City Councillor Sean Chu motioned for a plebiscite to let the public decide.

Calgary City Councillor Sean Chu (left) proposed motion to hold plebiscite over Calgary 2026 Olympic bid (Facebook photo)

But instead a follow-up motion, to defer the vote over the plebiscite motion to an April 10 meeting of the Priorities and Finance Committee where a “robust communication plan” is set to be discussed, became the focus in city council Wednesday

After debate, the referral vote passed 10-3, allowing councilors time to build cases for or against a public vote over the Games.

Council members had voted 8-2 Tuesday to extend up to CAD $9.5 million (USD $7.33 million) to the project on the condition that the Ottawa contribute $10.5 million and the province kick in $10 million.  The city expects a commitment of these funds “soon.”

The funds will help set up a Bid Corporation (BidCo) and let the work continue on the exploration, including active public engagement.

According to a city clerk estimate, a plebiscite would take six months to prepare and cost close to CAD $1.96 million.  Last year Chu proposed a plebiscite to coincide with the October municipal election that would have cost $390,000 but council voted against the motion because it was “too early.”

“Now,” he said to city council, “I have been told it’s too late.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that under Alberta law, the plebiscite cannot be held binding, but he added that he doesn’t believe any politician would ignore the results of a public vote.

During Wednesday’s debate, the council seemed split on whether a referendum should move forward.

Calgary bid rival Sion will hold a binding referendum across Valais region on June 10 to determine whether the Swiss bid moves forward, and a national vote there still remains possible.

The Austrian Communist Party is collecting signatures on a petition to try to force a vote over the Graz and Schladming 2026 Winter Games bid.

Innsbruck in Austria was defeated by an Olympic bid referendum last year when 53.35 percent voted against the project.

Bids from Stockholm in Sweden, Erzurum in Turkey and possibly Turin or Milan in Italy could also enter the race before a March 31 International Olympic Committee (IOC) deadline to express bid interest.

The IOC will elect a winning city September 2019.

More to come.

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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