Calgary Mayor Says 2026 Olympic Winter Games Would Help Expedite Transit Plans

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told Calgary’s business community Tuesday that a train extension to the airport, labelled a medium-term priority in the city’s 30-year transit strategic plan, could happen quicker if Calgary is selected to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

He said that a link to the airport sits low on the priority list, behind the Green Line LRT project, an extended northeast line and an expanded Bus Rapid Transit system across the city, adding “and then, the airport transit will connect to the Green Line and the Blue Line across the north end of the city down Airport Trail.  But, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, unless, of course, we get the Olympics.”

He said, the Calgary Sun reported, “the airport transit connection is quite low on the list.  But that said, if we were to get a whole bunch of federal funding for something like the Olympics, that would actually allow us to accelerate the whole list.”

City Councillor Jim Stevenson, whose ward includes the airport, said the $295 million airport tunnel was designed to accommodate an eventual LRT expansion, though passenger demand for a link doesn’t currently exist.  “The possibility of the Winter Olympics is 10 years away.  I’ve always said the demand would likely be there within 10 years, so maybe we can tie it all together.  You never know.”

Olympic Saddledome in Calgary, Canada - host of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games (Wikipedia Photo)

Olympic Saddledome in Calgary, Canada – host of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games (Wikipedia Photo)

A committee headed by former police chief Rick Hanson is now studying whether it makes sense for Calgary to even bid for the 2026 Winter Games after council voted in June to spend up to $5 million on the vetting process.

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Games that were considered successful, leaving a valuable winter sport legacy.  Vancouver hosted the most recent Olympics in Canada, the Winter Games in 2010.

Should Calgary decide to move forward with plans, an application would be due into the International Olympic Committee’s Lausanne headquarters by early 2018 with a final election of the host city likely in 2019.

The next two Winter Games are scheduled to be staged in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018 and Beijing, China in 2022.  Serious international interest in bidding for the 2026 Games has already been expressed by Innsbruck in Austria, Stockholm in Sweden and four regions in Switzerland – as well as 2022 bid runner-up Almaty, Kazakhstan.