Private Calgary Group Pursuing Bid To Host 2026 Commonwealth Games

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday that a private group of citizens have been preparing a bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2026.

Calgary 2026 rendering of upgraded McMahon Stadium with Olympic overlay

Calgary 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid concept image

According to CBC Nenshi is open to the idea of bringing Commonwealth athletes to Alberta in Canada for the quadrennial event, but he is unsure if there will be funding available.

“They are people who know what they’re doing and who are very enthusiastic about this,” Nenshi told reporters.

“As such, as of today, no order of government has offered financial backing for this bid.

“And the one thing I’m really interested in is what the province and the federal government have to say, but it is a very quick process.”

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) had planned to award the 2026 Games last summer but delayed the selection until this coming spring so it could seek more opportunities.

Last week India said it would bid for the 2026 Games after the Commonwealth’s most populous nation resolved its differences with the CGF over the Birmingham 2022 sports program.  India had threatened to boycott the event when shooting was dropped from the schedule, but the CGF instead agreed that shooting competitions will now be staged in India four months ahead of the Games.

Complicating Calgary’s chances is a developed bid for the 2030 Games by Hamilton in Ontario, Canada.  The CGF has hinted that it could award the 2026 and 2030 Games at the same time and Hamilton’s project is scheduled to take place on the centenary of the inaugural Commonwealth Games that were staged in the same Canadian city.

Hamilton Faces Hurdles Ahead Of 2030 Centennial Commonwealth Games Bid For Canada

Funding for the Games will be a challenge with the 2026 Games set to take place the same summer as the FIFA World Cup is to be staged in Canada, as well as the United States and Mexico.  Matches could be scheduled in Alberta’s capital Edmonton and a Calgary Commonwealth Games would have to fight for limited provincial and federal dollars.

Edmonton had considered and opted out of a bid for the 2026 Games and earlier dropped out of the 2022 bid race when the oil market collapsed.

The bid’s reception by taxpayers could be difficult as well after Calgary’s 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games bid was voted down in a plebiscite in November 2018.  Several millions of dollars were spent by the three levels of government for the years-long project that was immediately scrapped.

The Mayor offered to share the information legacy from the failed Calgary Winter Games bid with the anonymous group, which could be helpful moving forward.

But Nenshi told reporters that there was little the city could offer by way of funding, especially after terms were reached with the Calgary Flames to build a new arena for the NHL’s hockey team.  He said the bid group has discussed the use of venues, but to his knowledge no funds have been requested from any government.

“So, really, what we’ve said is we’ve got lots of data thanks to our Olympic bid,” he said.

“We really understand our facilities very well.

“You are welcome to access that data to figure out what a Commonwealth bid might look like, but also we have to be very careful about funding, given that the city doesn’t really have any money.”

“I am always interested in not being the kind of bureaucratic government who stands in the way of citizens who want to do something interesting.”

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) meets with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi on December 21, 2016 (Photo: Twitter @JustinTrudeau)

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) meets with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi on December 21, 2016 (Photo: Twitter @JustinTrudeau)

Last month Commonwealth Games Canada (CGC) announced there were two interested Canadian bids for the 2026 and 2030 Games that could be elected in 2020 – Hamilton and another group that wanted to remain anonymous at the time.

If Calgary is that other group, it makes sense that it wishes to remain anonymous at this time so that it can resolve contentious issues around funding and venues and eventually announce a solid plan.  Calgary’s Winter Games bid ultimately failed when misinformation spread rampantly across social media as plans evolved in plain sight.

The CGF could award both 2026 and 2030 Games to Canada if its other options are limited.

Durban in South Africa won its bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games but was later stripped of the opportunity when organizers couldn’t keep up with required payments.  The CGF was forced to quickly search for a replacement and eventually elected Birmingham after a shortened campaign.  The CGF will now be looking for solid, reliable partners.

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