Calgary City Councillor Skeptical Of IOC After Russia’s Olympic Reinstatement

Calgary City Councillor Druh Farrell

Calgary City Councillor Druh Farrell said Tuesday that the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) reinstatement of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) soon after the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games draws into question the organization’s claims that it has a handle on corruption, and raises her concerns over a possible Calgary 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid.

“I would like the IOC to take a second look at doping, and Russia,” she said.

The ROC was banned from participating as a team at the PyeongChang Games after the organization was suspended for its alleged participation in a state-sponsored doping program at the Sochi 2014 Games.  Select ‘clean’ Russian athletes were invited to take part at the Olympics as independent ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia.’

The IOC had discussed reinstating the ROC as a team in time for the Closing Ceremony but after athletes from Russia accounted for two of the four doping violations during the Games, including one that cost the mixed doubles curling team a bronze medal, new negotiations took place.  The IOC Executive Committee, amid harsh criticism, reinstated the ROC shortly after the Games were complete after no new doping violations were found.

Farrell’s comments published in the Calgary Herald were made at a panel discussion about the potential Calgary 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid, where the City Councillor shared the table with mostly pro-bid speakers including Rio 2016 Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe, WinSport president and CEO Barry Heck and Calgary Bid Exploratory Committee adviser David Legg.

On Twitter, Farrell described herself as “the sole token skeptic” and Tuesday asked City Council to keep an open mind even though it seems their minds are made up.

“Just from what I’m hearing, I suspect that we made a decision emotionally quite some time ago,” she said, admitting that the bid will probably move forward.

“The bills are just starting to come in with Korea and it’s almost double what they originally forecasted.

“They’re going to be living with massive debt for a significant amount of time.

“Right now, the IOC takes the profit.  It’s a hugely profitable organization and the risk is on the city. They need to share in both the risk and the reward.”

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

The IOC redistributes over 90 per cent of its revenues to support and grow global sport including to National Olympic Committees, International Sport Federations and other bodies that promote Olympism, as well as host cities.  The IOC says it will contribute USD $925 million to the host city of the 2026 Games.

Most of the risk Farrell refers to relates to the construction of infrastructure and venues, and the IOC has recently reformed its policies to reduce the need for these by relaxing its own rules and reducing burdens on the host city.  Last year an IOC statement said that Calgary’s preliminary Games budget stated in excess of USD $3.5 billion could be significantly reduced under the new framework.

But the recent handling of the ROC doping allegations and the PyeongChang cost overruns should raise concerns over the IOC’s credibility, Farrell believes.

WinSport’s Heck said Tuesday that the ability for Calgary to use the legacy of the its 1988 Games, and refresh the facilities for the future is not only a great opportunity for the city, but a strength in the bid race.

He said “The advantage of being able to reuse old facilities is a tremendous leg up for Calgary.”

With the United States officially declaring last month that it will not bid for the 2026 Games, and Sion and Stockholm fighting for support to stay in the race, only Sapporo in Japan and Graz in Austria seem to be solid rivals for Calgary.  The deadline for new cities to apply is March 31.

The Calgary City council is split on whether to move forward yet a bid committee has been funded to advance the process until the elected officials can come to a final decision, likely in June this year.  The IOC will invite qualified candidates to submit bids after vetting the plans in October.

The IOC will be keen to provide a clear and positive message for Calgary stakeholders in order to keep the Canadian city in the race.

The IOC will elect a winning city September, 2019 in Milan, Italy.

About Robert Livingstone

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.