On Friday Canada’s federal government approved spending of up to CAD $1.75 billion (USD $1.34 billion) on the Calgary 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid, up significantly from the $1.5 billion originally expected. But because of the attached conditions, the maximum funds may not be available to the project
The amount is adjusted to 2026 dollars.
Local media sources have confirmed that Ottawa is willing to provide the entirety of the funds only if a majority of voters check the ‘yes’ box on a November 13 plebiscite ballot and if the city and provincial governments also pledge to contribute the same combined total. Otherwise the federal government will only match its partners commitments.
It is unclear why the federal government upped the ante above what the bid requires to meet its budget, but it may be part of a wider political plan to support ongoing negotiations.
The Calgary 2026 budget currently requires $3 billion in taxpayer contributions. Earlier this month The Province of Alberta pledged $700 billion – less than the $1 billion that had been the speculated amount. Along with the $500 million contribution discussed by the City of Calgary, the federal contribution would remain at $1.2 billion and the entire budget falls $600 million short.
The city has yet to announce what it is ready to spend on the Olympics which plans to bring a new multi-purpose arena and field house to the city, along with several venue upgrades and new affordable housing.
Calgary seems willing to up its funding, but Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said that if his city were required to contribute more than the province – it would be a bad deal.
He was caught off guard by the generosity of Ottawa, explaining in a statement “We were surprised to see this number reported for a proposed federal contribution to a potential Calgary 2026 Olympics as negotiations are still underway,”
Reportedly on Friday, the Province indicated that it will not budge on its current offering.
“We don’t plan to increase or change the financial commitment we’ve made,” Cheryl Oates, spokeswoman for Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told the Calgary Herald.
If that remains the case the city would need to pony up at least $800 million to meet the current budget and about $1.05 billion in order to maximize the federal contribution.
Both seem unlikely in the city’s current political environment where there is pressure to lower taxes during an economic downturn.
The official announcement from Ottawa was not expected until next week and all three parties are reportedly still at the negotiating table giving further hope to bid supporters that the Province might still sweeten the deal.
On Wednesday International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Director Christophe Dubi told reporters in Calgary that the USD $925 million commitment from his organization could not be increased to help fill any funding gaps.
The IOC is a non-profit with no cash reserves, he explained, adding that most revenue is passed through to other sport governing bodies.