Calgary City Council Tuesday voted to accept a draft bid proposal and to continue pursuing a possible 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid at least until a planned November plebiscite.
Councillors accepted the plebiscite date by a vote of 12-3 and approved continued work by the city secretariat by a 10-5 count.
The vote was taken late in the evening following a lengthy presentation and debate that was held as part of a public hearing, but concluded behind closed doors to address confidential concerns.
During the debate some Councillors said they were cautious to move forward, indicating that the slow flow of information was a cause for concern. Councillor Jeff Davison warned that an ‘off-ramp’ could be taken any day.
Had City Councillors rejected the work done so far and voted against the continuation of the project – the bid would have been abandoned immediately. No other so-called ‘off-ramp’ votes are scheduled but a city-wide plebiscite is planned for November 13 for Calgarians to weigh in on the bid. City Councillors have said that they will cancel the project at that time if voters oppose the plans.
A poll commissioned by the City of Calgary last month found that 53 percent of respondents support the bid with 33 percent saying they were against the project.
About CAD $10 million has already been spent on the bid with over $30 million in total budgeted until the host city is selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in September 2019.
Earlier on Tuesday the Calgary 2026 BidCo released an 80-page document with detailed bid plans including high-level budget items and a preliminary venue concept.
The Games are estimated to cost about CAD $5.23 billion (USD $3.98 billion), with CAD $3 billion (USD $2.29 billion) from public funding and the additional amount offset by revenues and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) contribution. There is a CAD $1.13 billion contingency built-in.
Two new venues, including a mid-sized arena and a multi-sport fieldhouse are included in the budget along with three Olympic Village complexes that will be later converted to affordable housing.
Eight existing venues will receive major upgrades.
Also on Tuesday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi received written notification from Federal Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan that Ottawa will contribute funds matching the amount spent by Calgary and Alberta against hosting costs.
None of Calgary’s rival bids are on solid footing just weeks before the IOC is set to to reveal a short list of candidate cities from October 8-9 in Buenos Aires at the Youth Olympics.
Stockholm lacks government support with final guarantees due into the IOC in January. Sapporo seems to have refocused on a 2030 bid when new rail infrastructure will be delivered to the city. Erzurum in Turkey poses major security and political risks and a three-city Italian project has been slow to organize.