A new report released Friday by a bid project group suggest city Councillors should move forward with a 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid, and reveals that critical funding by the provincial and federal governments has been granted.
According to the report released by city hall, the federal government has agreed to contribute CAD $10.5 million (USD $8 million) and the province $10 million to a bid committee (BidCo), in addition to CAD $9.5 million in total expected from the city.
“The City of Calgary has received confirmation of financial support from both the Government of Canada (GoC) and Government of Alberta (GoA) to support a 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (OPWG) Bid Corporation (BidCo),” was the first line on the published report post-dated for March 21.
But Friday evening the Mayor’s office and the province confirmed in statements that funding agreements have not been finalized and the report was released in error. A later statement said that talks are continuing and no funds have been committed.
Calgary City Council will meet Wednesday (March 21) to discuss the report and to potentially approve new requests from the exploratory committee including the formation of a BidCo, the forwarding of up to an additional CAD $2.5 million (USD $1.91 million), and permission to prepare a full Games budget and competitive bid.
Should these requests be granted, the report emphasizes that the city may still not formally bid – but deems them a necessary step should the provincial and federal governments, along with city hall, decide to move forward with plans.
The report states “Council will be given a number of off-ramps and/or decision points.”
The next report to council is scheduled for June this year, and that could be the last formal communication before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board determines which cities to invite into the bid race in October.
Meanwhile another report estimates that a non-binding plebiscite to gauge public support of Calgary’s 2026 bid would cost taxpayers CAD $1.96 million (USD $1.5 million). City Councillors critical of the bid – Sean Chu, Peter Demong, Jeromy Farkas and Joe Magliocca – requested the report. It would take at least six months to prepare for the vote.
Farkas said he would use Wednesday’s meeting to push for approval of the referendum.
Chu was outvoted when he suggested holding the plebiscite last year with a cost estimate of $390,000 as an add-on to already-scheduled municipal elections.
Other Councillors are unsupportive of a vote, including Councillor Ward Sutherland who told the Calgary Herald “until we know what the deal is [with the bid] and what it would really cost, I think we’d be premature to do it.”
Calgary officials are still involved in a dialogue phase with the IOC with the latter working on strategies to cut hosting costs.
The IOC will invite qualified bids to participate when the campaign kicks off in October this year, then bid documents, including guarantees will be due in January 2019.
Along with Calgary, bids from Graz in Austria, Sapporo in Japan, Sion in Switzerland and Stockholm in Sweden have already entered discussions with the IOC. Other cities have until March 31 to deliver a letter-of-interest; currently Erzurum in Turkey and Turin and Milan in Italy are considering the opportunity and Lillehammer, Norway may bid for the 2026 or 2030 Games.
Each city, like Calgary, have obstacles to overcome before they can hope to be on the final ballot when the IOC elects a winning city in September 2019.
[March 19 Update] The City of Calgary released a statement Saturday explaining that the version of the Olympic bid update containing information about the approved funding was created in anticipation of a possible confirmation ahead of the March 21 meeting, and was posted with the meeting Agenda in error. It has since been removed from the city website, and replaced with the version attached above.
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.