By a City Council unanimous vote of 15-0, Calgary’s proposed 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid has been suspended, bringing to an end almost three years of exploration and comprehensive planning behind Canada’s bid to host its third edition of the Games.
The decision was widely expected after a non-binding plebiscite last Tuesday revealed that 56.4 percent of voters across Calgary were against the bid. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi Monday said the results of the stand-alone plebiscite had a very high voter turnout and was quite conclusive.
“It’s time to accept the will of the people,” he said.
“Thank you to so many people who dreamed big on this project.”
The failed result also meant that CAD $700 million funding from the Province of Alberta and over $1.4 billion promised by the federal government will no longer be available for a bid, both contingent on a positive vote.
Even if Councillors had decided to move forward with the bid and without the popular consent of constituents, the city would have to budget almost $3 billion for plans to remain viable.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Director Christophe Dubi said last week “When it comes to Calgary, it’s a feeling of both disappointment, but also realism.”
“Calgary had a strong project, with very good conditions from a technical standpoint. At the same time, the main concern when hosting the games if you ask any citizen is around the economics of the game. In Calgary, the main pieces of the jigsaw came very late – maybe a little too late.
“We knew going into this vote that it would be complicated. It’s hard, when you have to convince citizens, to have the full picture of a project like this only a few days before.”
With Calgary out of the race, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is left with only two of the original seven applicants that entered the competition in April.
Graz in Austria left the race first after a petition forced a referendum, and organizers withdrew citing lack of political will behind the project.
Sion in Switzerland was the second city out of the race when 54 percent across the canton of Valais voted against the bid. Later, Sapporo in Japan shifted its bid to 2030 so the city could instead focus on recovery efforts after an earthquake this summer claimed eleven lives in the region.
In October Turkey’s bid in Erzurum was dismissed by the IOC because it was deemed too costly.
The two remaining cities in the race are also at risk.
Stockholm in Sweden has yet to win any government support for its plans that are currently being organized by the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK). A coalition city government was recently organized under the pretense that it would not fund an Olympic bid. The national government has still yet to organize after summer elections, and is not in a position to offer any guarantees for the project.
A joint bid from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy is also in the works, but it will have to move forward after the national government denied funding. Regional governments representing the two cities say they can finance the project with the help of funds – but guarantees from government partners for essential services are still required.
Those guarantees are due into the IOC on January 11 along with the bid books, but there is still the possibility that this deadline could be extended.
Dubi said last week “In exceptional situations we can be exceptionally flexible, there is no reason to stop this entire project unless the warranty can be in place.”
“If there is no government, we continue with everything else, which is 98.5 percent of the job.”
Dubi played up the two bids, knowing that they are the only remaining two cities and the IOC has no plan B in place.
“We’re very comfortable with the two bids we have.”
“They’re both projects anchored in winter sports, and used to delivering them,” Dubi said. “We’re proud that these are both really aligned with the Agenda 2020 direction.”
The IOC plans to elect a host city at its Session planned for the end of June in Lausanne, Switzerland.