Reporting from PyeongChang, South Korea – Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) President Tricia Smith Thursday walked back concerning remarks made by her International Olympic Committee (IOC) colleague and Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch who said the IOC was supporting Calgary’s bid by influencing the media.
Smith emphasized that the IOC and COC are available to Calgary planners as a resource, and not to influence the decision to bid.
“We are very importantly supporting [Calgary] in dealing with their local press,” Samaranch had said during the IOC’s all members session Monday, adding “we are very well-equipped to help them explain why this is good to them.”
Calgary City Councillor Jeromy Farkas told the Calgary Herald “things like these very overt efforts to influence public opinion and ‘handle’ the local media give me reason for pause.”
“At every step of the way, it seems like we’re actually losing our independence in terms of who is actually making the decisions, but more than that, how they’re being made.”
When asked Thursday by GamesBids.com about Samaranch’s remarks Smith said “obviously [the IOC] are interested in having as many bids as they can for 2026.”
“We understand Juan Antonio Samaranch is encouraging Calgary, if you recall his father used to do the same thing … but he certainly told us it would be wonderful to have a Games in Calgary, but I’ve heard he’s been telling that to all the different candidates.”
COC CEO Chris Overholt said “we’re encouraged and positive, but at the same time quite cautious.”
“Calgary needs to decide with its partners that that’s something they want to take on. Equally so, our session members need to make that decision.”
Calgary City Council has so far budgeted over CDN $5 million to study a possible Games and pay preliminary bid costs including part of a $135,000 trip to the Olympics in PyeongChang this week to join the IOC’s “observers program”. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, along with Federal and Provincial representatives have joined the delegation.
Councillors are split on whether a bid should move forward as they continue to mull the prospect while waiting for Federal and Provincial partners to contribute about one-third of the CDN $30 million bid costs. The governments are expected to decide if they’ll partner with Calgary by the end of February.
If they do, the hard work will begin Overholt explained to GamesBids.com.
“There would be a lot of work to do still in the planning, a lot of work to do still to bring alignment with the Provincial and Federal governments, we’re working on those things every day.”
Though no decision has been made, Calgary has become a candidate in the race by joining the Dialogue Phase and need to report to the IOC in June so that a working group can make recommendation within the IOC in July.
Overholt emphasized that it’s ultimately up to the COC Session, as Canada’s Olympic Franchise, to decide whether to pursue a bid – even if all three levels of government agree to move forward.
In October, the IOC Executive Board will choose which cities will be on the ballot when the members elect a winner in September 2019.
“I’m concerned that there’s a momentum that’s building that’s put us on this track without actually having really thought it out properly,” Farkas sad,
Sion in Switzerland along with Stockholm in Sweden and Sapporo in Japan are currently involved in the IOC’s process for 2026. Last month Graz in Austria expressed interest in bidding and on Tuesday officials in Salt Lake City said they would bid for the 2030 Games, but wouldn’t rule out a push for 2026.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com 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.