Calgary’s 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid is at risk of ending Monday (April 16) when the project faces a City Council vote on the continuation of the project. A motion to consider shuttering the two-year-old project to pursue the city’s second Winter Games was passed by a 9-1 vote Tuesday.
City Council had planned to meet in Chambers Tuesday to discuss an estimated CAD $1.9 million (USD $1.5) public engagement initiative designed to add transparency to a potential Olympic bid, but motions to assess Council’s support of plans and interest in holding a plebiscite were expected to be raised.
Calgary City Councillor Druh Farrell had asked for a “temperature check” to measure council’s continued interest in the bid, and a motion for the decisive vote next week.
“There’s nothing that could convince me to support this project,” Farrell said when she later also denied support for a plebiscite.
Last month City Council voted 8-6 in favour of extending funding for bid exploration, but its support of the bid has since cooled based on lack of transparency, a series of miscommunications over the nature of the funding and logistics behind holding a plebiscite.
Some Councillors also questioned the neutrality of a proposed public consultation campaign.
Based on the debate in City Council Tuesday, at least two Councillors who have supported the bid in the past will now oppose it.
Councillor Farrell referenced new corruption allegations surrounding the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games bid involving Samsung and up to 27 IOC members, questioning whether Calgary should risk partnering with the IOC due to its reputation. Samsung has since denied accusations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that they have taken note.
Councillor Jyoti Gondek called out the IOC on various corruption issues including vote buying, doping and sexual harrassment, saying “it goes much, much deeper.”
“I expect the IOC to be the regulators,” she added saying that they need to “crack down” on offenders.
An estimated CAD $6 million has already been spent by the city to pursue a bid.
Further consideration of a possible plebiscite won’t be debated unless Monday’s vote saves the bid.
Last month Provincial officials announced that CAD $10 million (USD $7.83 million) would be committed to help fund a Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation (BidCo), along with the $10.5 million offered by Federal partners in Ottawa and $9.5 million allotted from city coffers.
But last Thursday a spokesperson for the Premier of Alberta said no funds will be made available to the organization of the Games unless a plebiscite is held.
“The province has commited $10m to the BidCo but we would not commit any funding to the games without a plebiscite,” Cheryl Oates said on Twitter.
But in January 2019, candidates are expected by the IOC to submit bid books complete with a core guarantee file, including financial commitments from government partners to fund the Games themselves, and any potential cost overruns. The final guarantees are due April 12.
With the Province’s condition, the timing means a plebiscite would have to be held by February. Without the necessary approved funding, Calgary’s bid, if it is still in the running, would be dropped from the process.
Early estimates suggest the cost of hosting the Games would be CAD $4.6 billion (USD $3.65 billion).
It was revealed Tuesday that Calgary 2026 officials requested a six-month extension to bid deadlines in order to deal with internal scheduling, but the IOC reportedly denied the request. The Olympic Charter stipulates when host cities are to be elected.
Last week the IOC confirmed Calgary’s application and announced that seven countries in total have submitted letters-of-interest in bidding for the 2026 Games including cities Erzurum in Turkey, Graz in Austria, Milan, Turin and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy, Sapporo in Japan, Sion in Switzerland and Swedish Capital Stockholm.
— Ward Sutherland (@Ward4Ward1) April 10, 2018
Sion’s bid will face a June 10 referendum across Valais region and may be forced to hold a national vote if the Upper Parliament approves a motion later this year. A petition in Graz is close to receiving the required signature to force a referendum for the Austrian bid.
Innsbruck in Austria was forced to drop its 2026 bid last year after losing a city-wide public vote.
Bids from Stockholm and Italy need to secure government support before they can submit required bid books.
Along with Calgary, Turin, Sapporo and Cortina d’Ampezzo have hosted previous Games.
The IOC will invite qualified candidates to complete the bid process at an all-members Session beginning October 3 in Buenos Aires ahead of the Youth Olympics. A winner will be elected September 2019.
More to come….
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.