IOC Balks At Request For Increased Financial Contribution To Fill Calgary 2026 Olympic Bid Funding Gap

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Director Christophe Dubi Wednesday rejected suggestions that his organization contribute further funds to a Calgary 2026 Winter Olympics to cover a possible funding gap for the CAD $5.23 billion (USD $4 billion) project.

IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi in Calgary October 23, 2018

IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi in Calgary October 24, 2018

When asked about the possible increased cash injection during a press conference held at Calgary’s sliding track, a legacy venue from the 1988 Games, Dubi dismissed the notion.

“The IOC has committed (USD) $925 million,” Dubi said.

“This is what we can commit at this point in time, which is a significant contribution.”

Calgary 2026 organizers say they need CAD $3 million from taxpayers, and have already received a provincial commitment of $700 million.  A further maximum contribution of $1.5 billion is expected from federal coffers leaving an $800 million gap that the city must fill.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said last week that it wouldn’t be a good deal for the city if it were required to invest more money than the province for the Olympics.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told The Canadian Press “If there is a gap between what needs to be put forward and what is out there, perhaps maybe the IOC ought to be looking at what they could put in.”

When further pressed by reporters, Dubi said funds were not available.

“It’s not from a lack of willingness,” he said.

“As a non-profit, we do not have the financial reserves.

“We give away much of what we earn,” he added, pointing to a USD $3.25 million per day spend to help finance organizing committees, National Olympic Committees, Sport Federations and athletes.

“We fund much of the sports movement.”

Indeed, according to audited financial reports, the IOC redistributes about 90 percent of what it earns and spends the other 10 percent on things like promotion, the Olympic Channel, insurance, legal bodies and other administrative and overhead costs.

When asked about the IOC’s large reserve, Dubi said that these funds were held as insurance against any unexpected cancellation of the Games for things like war or natural disaster.

Dubi played up Calgary’s bid, and it’s chances for success, suggesting that there was no possibility of cost over runs on the Games operating budget.

“Here, you have it all,” he said.

“That gives you safety with the costs.

“The numbers here are not made up,” he added, saying that the budget was well-developed.

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

He was careful to separate the idea of an operational budget from the capital investments made to prepare cities for the Games.  The costs of stadiums, athlete’s accommodations, highway and rail projects and other infrastructure are typically underestimated – blowing up overall budgets.

This event was extremely unusual for the IOC, an organization that follows strict traditions and protocols and rarely discusses a candidate city bid outside of a pre-scheduled press conference following the site evaluation visit.  If Calgary remains a candidate, that won’t take place until the spring.

With three of the seven original applicants dropping from the race, and a fourth city from Turkey left off of the short list, options for the IOC are running out and they are working hard to encourage those remaining cities to stay in the running.  They are leaving protocol behind in order secure a 2026 host city.

Dubi played up all the bids, suggesting that they are in the same position.

“The three bids are on equal footing,” he explained, with respect to plans to use mostly existing venues.

“We feel we have three very strong bids.”

Stockholm still needs approval from its national and city governments and a joint bid by Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy needs similar guarantees.

Calgary 2026 faces a decisive plebiscite on November 13.  But even if Calgarians vote to continue pursuing the bid, City Councillors can pull the plug if funding falls short.

IOC President Thomas Bach said earlier this month that there is no “plan b” if all three cities exit the race, but understands that they could approach other cities such as 2002 host Salt Lake City or 1992 Summer Games host Barcelona – both having expressed interest in hosting an upcoming Games.

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