On the eve of a likely decisive plebiscite over Calgary’s 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid, GamesBids.com had the opportunity to ask No Calgary Olympic’s spokesperson Erin Waite some fundamental questions. She represents one voice in our three-part series of final thoughts at the end of a contentious Olympic bid debate.
On a shoestring budget (said to amount to $10 for coffee), No Calgary Olympics has spearheaded the ‘no’ side of the Olympic bid debate. They say they are a grassroots organization of “Calgarians who come to this issue with diverse perspectives and experience.” Here’s the transcript:
GamesBids.com: The International Olympic Committee has introduced their Agenda 2020 and new cost-cutting measures that they say will reduce the costs, and risks of hosting the Games. Why do you think that this isn’t enough for Calgary to choose to pursue the Games in 2026?
Erin Waite: “Agenda 2020 is an example of some reforms on one particular aspect of hosting the Games. It does not remove the city-on-city competitive bid process which is a significant influence on host cities and their tendency to run up costs. The entire Olympic movement has strayed far from being about sport and instead has layered on excessive pageantry and mega-event attributes that further contribute to cost for the host city. All of these factors, beyond changes outlined in Agenda 2020, contribute to the Olympic movement being unappealing for a potential host city.”
GB: Many Calgarians say that the legacy benefits of hosting the 2026 Olympics, based on current Calgary 2026 plans, are not enough. Some say they want an NHL stadium, new transit and other facilities. If the Olympics aren’t staged in Calgary in 2026 – what are the prospects of getting new facilities in Calgary? What are the options?
EW: “Facilities needs are only one category of municipal and citizen priorities. Further, the facilities listed are all sports related – sports are only one category of facilities. It is disappointing to see hosting the Olympics being positioned as “Olympics or nothing” ultimatum as this precludes any discussion about other opportunities and other needs that should form part of the conversation. That robust conversation would have been a healthier process of evaluation for Calgarians prior to voting in a plebiscite.”
“The entire Olympic movement has strayed far from being about sport and instead has layered on excessive pageantry and mega-event attributes that further contribute to cost for the host city.” – Erin Waite
GB: Do Calgarians want to be on the world stage once again, as they were in 1988? Proponents say the media exposure benefits of hosting the Games will elevate the Calgary brand and bring economic returns in the future. Do you agree?
EW: “This is one of the many exaggerated benefits. Media exposure presumes that there is either lack of awareness or a misperception of Calgary. If neither of those is true, then the value of media exposure is less. As well, benefits from media exposure depend on whether that exposure is strategic. Are Calgary’s target markets those where the media exposure occurs? Some, for sure. But not all. Finally, the value may or may not be realized. The effectiveness of the Calgary image and messaging presented will determine that. There is potential to realize value but it is not a given and it is significantly exaggerated in the Bid Book.”
GB: If Calgary were to vote ‘yes’ in the plebiscite and move on to host the Games in 2026, do you think Calgary would be able to set a positive example to the IOC and future bid cities?
EW: “Calgary has the capacity to take on major projects and investments and do well. Hosting the Olympics is no different. Whether or not the IOC or future cities are impressed with Calgary is not an outcome that serves Calgary or Calgarians.”
Other Calgary 2026 Voices: