Set to arrive in Calgary this week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will take another step to demonstrate that the organization’s new bid process has become more proactive and efficient for cities looking to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Canadian city that set the stage for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games spent over (CDN) $3.5 million exploring the feasibility of a 2026 bid and have committed another $1 million to begin preparations for a campaign, ahead of any final approval by the city council to file an application. Should the city remove further roadblocks at the end of January, another $1 million will be spent and a campaign will be launched.
Set to tour key existing venues and examine early plans, a small team of IOC members are in the city, accompanied by two members of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and representatives from the Province of Alberta and the Federal Government in Canada.
A City of Calgary statement said the visit represents a “meaningful engagement with the IOC in advance of Council’s decision to pursue a bid or not.”
The unprecedented visit will come at no cost to taxpayers, Calgary 2026 spokesperson told CTV News.
“[The IOC are] paying the entire way both for themselves and for us. Historically, that would have been reversed,” he said.
The IOC has spent months reforming the Olympic bid process that has become ineffective of the past several years. Four European applicant cities dropped out the the 2022 Winter bid race, while three others exited the 2024 Summer Games campaign. A recent history of Games cost overruns and unused legacies have soured public interest in the Games resulting in lost referendums and cautious political support.
The IOC has since vowed to keep the bid process efficient and inexpensive, and last year the organization allocated the Games to Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 – both cities with little infrastructure construction required.
Part of the new process changes include the addition of a new dialogue stage, the current phase of the project where cities can engage with the IOC to see if there is enough synergy between the potential partners to warrant a bid. In past yers, the IOC only visited the bid cities after applications were filed and the candidates made financial deposits designed to help fund the on-site evaluations.
If the Calgary bid is approved, it could face international competition from Sion in Switzerland, Stockholm in Sweden and Sapporo in Japan. Cities in the United States including Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno Tahoe have expressed interest in hosting in 2026 but won’t likely move forward unless the other bids fail to materialize. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) are focused on organizing the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games.
The IOC members, who are technical experts and not spokespeople for the sports organization, are not expected to comment after the visit and are trying to keep the visit low key and productive.
City Council will receive an update from the Calgary 2026 project team later this month before any further commitments are made. If the bid is still viable, a Calgary 2026 delegation will attend the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang next month.
The deadline to file a bid with the IOC is March 31. A winner will be elected September 2019 in Milan, Italy.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com 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.