Calgary 2026 Olympic Winter Games Are ‘Feasible’ Says Exploratory Committee

The Calgary Bid Exploratory Committee (CBEC), a group investigating the possibility of the Canadian city bidding to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, said Monday that is was “feasible” for the city to stage the event for a second time.

Calgary Bid Exploration Committee Chair Rick Hanson presents report to City Council July 24, 2017
Calgary Bid Exploration Committee Chair Rick Hanson presents report to City Council July 24, 2017

“We know we can do it,” CBEC Chair Rick Hanson told the Calgary City Council during a scheduled presentation, “now its up to the council,” he added.

City administrators have asked for a one-week extension, until July 31, to review the CBEC report before forming any further recommendations a to whether a bid would be prudent for Calgary.  But it’s not likely any final decisions would be made that day.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said “I will be shocked” if the CBEC says anything other than it being best to wait for more information from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) before making decisions.

Another discussion in City Council could be held September 11 and any decision would likely occur next year after the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games – and after this fall’s municipal elections.

On Friday CBEC, an organization commissioned last year with a CAD $5 million budget, shared a 5,4000 page report with city officials who had originally intended to arrive at a final decision today but changed the schedule when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) altered its deadlines earlier in the month.  In Lausanne, a panel of four IOC members temporarily reformed the Winter Games bid process by extending the “invitation stage” of the campaign and shortening the actual bid – leaving the application deadline for Fall 2018.

The IOC has also responded to an earlier report by the CBEC that suggested there would be a financial deficit should Calgary host.

In a statement, the IOC media relations team disagreed witht he fears of a deficit and wrote “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.”

Hanson said the IOC is “extremely interested” in watching any city considering a bid for the Games, and he added that the IOC have been “accommodating” to CBEC’s questions and “they want to talk more now about what costs need to be addressed.”

“They have come across of being very aware of many of the things that have come up in a number of [news] articles.

“They’ve also been hearing from people similar to us that the operating costs are very high and that when we factor in sources of revenue it still appears to us, as we have reported after a great deal of research that we’re not bringing in enough money to fund operations.

“They would be interested in sitting down with us, checking our assumptions, and help us with information they may have, that we don’t have that could help us drive those costs down or perhaps look at options for generating more operational revenue.

“I have no reason to doubt their sincerity.

“We’re ideally positioned right now, we know all of the facts … we rolled over all of the stones, we think we know where all of the costs are.

“We now need to sit down not only with the IOC but with the different levels of government and say ‘how can this work out?’

“Here’s what we’ve learned, how can you help us out here?”

Hanson admitted, however, that it will be important for a government entity other than the city to guarantee any possible shortfall in the host-city agreement with the IOC.

Many Council Members remain skeptical, questioning possible cost overruns from past Games and suggesting that the IOC be held accountable.  Some councilors asked about waiting to bid for the 2030 Games instead to see if the IOC has indeed changed, as they suggest they have.

Councilor Diane Colley-Urquhart asked for an IOC representative to be in attendance at the September 11 council meeting to address questions, an appointment that may be difficult to make coinciding with the first day of an important IOC Executive Board Meeting and IOC Session that is scheduled in Lima, Peru where Paris and Los Angeles are expected to be awarded the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games.

On the schedule, Colley-Urquhart tweeted “they could make someone available if they r serious.”

Hanson agreed to make the request to the IOC.

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 (Wikipedia Photo)

The full 5,400 page report has yet to be released to the public calling into question the transparency of the CBEC.  A 365-page preview was posted online last week but Hanson said more pages could be made public, but others must remain redacted because they contain competitive information from the venues.

To date, Sion in Switzerland is the only declared bidder for the 2026 Games after the city won a national nomination campaign.  Innsbruck in Austria has conducted a feasibility study that produced positive results in favour of bidding and could come forward with a bid shortly.  Both European cities, however, would have to win binding local referendums before their plans could officially move forward.

A plebiscite over the bid had been discussed in Calgary, but the possible non-binding vote was quashed in City Council Monday by a vote of 13-2.

The IOC will elect the 2026 host city in 2019.

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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