IOC Says Calgary 2026 Budget Estimate Can Be Reduced With New Reforms

In rare comments from an International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesperson regarding preparations by a city considering a bid for the Olympic Games, the IOC said it believes that a draft budget released by the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) Monday for a possible Calgary 2026 Olympic Games bid may be overstated.

Olympic Saddledome in Calgary, Canada - host of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games (Wikipedia Photo)

Olympic Saddledome in Calgary, Canada – host of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.  Calgary would need to build at least one new arena to host in 2026 (Wikipedia Photo)

“While we have not seen the detail of Calgary’s draft budget, we remain confident that by working together to refine operational planning, that opportunities exist for significant savings,” the statement read.

“We understand that Calgary’s estimated budget has been modelled on the experience of Vancouver 2010, and did not benefit from the new approach of organising the Games, which emphasises efficiencies and sustainability in the context of a city’s long-term planning as a part of the Olympic Agenda 2020 framework.”

An interjection by the IOC into a domestic narrative around the preparations of a bid shows that the organization may be serious about closer collaboration with prospective Games hosts and a greater participation in communicating the IOC’s desired message.

The IOC recently appointed Rebecca Edwards to the newly created role of Strategic Communications Director after three-of-five bids dropped out of the 2024 Olympic Games bid and four-of-six left the 2022 race, most amid public outcries that the Games would be too risky and too expensive to host.

The statement distributed Tuesday may be intended to proactively shore public support in Calgary and ensure the city enters the Olympic bid race.  Recent polling has demonstrated strong support by the public for a second Calgary Olympic Games, but the polls took place before the recent financial estimates were released.

Earlier in the month IOC President Thomas Bach said the 2026 Winter Games race would see reforms, and a more collaborative process.

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.  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.

Calgary believes its greatest capital costs will be the construction of one or two new hockey arenas.

The CBEC said it would integrate into its report any changes resulting from bid reforms that are expected to be discussed at an IOC Session to be held July 11 and 12.  The CBEC report is due July 24.

“The IOC has, for some time now, been exchanging information with National Olympic Committees and cities potentially interested in submitting a candidature for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, including the Calgary Bid Exploratory Committee,” the IOC statement continued.

(Calgary 2026)

“This exchange helps cities better appreciate the scope and scale of an Olympic Winter Games, within the context of Olympic Agenda 2020, which has a number of recommendations that help to reduce the cost and complexity of organising the Games.”

“In addition, a working group composed of winter sports specialists and International Federation experts are looking into ways of reducing the operational budget of the Olympic Winter Games. These efforts could not be taken into consideration by the Calgary team in their deliberations, but they will certainly result in a positive impact on Calgary’s budget. We look forward to continuing to work with the Committee as it refines its project.”

“The benefits of this approach can be seen in the over USD 2 billion savings made on the Tokyo 2020 revised construction budget, as well as the operational budget of Beijing 2022, which currently sits at USD 1.6 billion.”

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.

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.

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