New Poll: Support For Calgary 2026 Olympic Bid Is High, But Only If Taxpayers Don’t Get The Bill

A new poll released Tuesday revealed the prospect of a Calgary 2026 Olympic Winter Games bid is popular across Canada and in Alberta, but respondents are split when it comes to paying the bill.

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

Calgary last hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1988

The Global News commissioned Ipsos poll revealed 92 percent of Canadians would back a privately funded Games in Calgary, and 84 percent believe the Games would boost Calgary’s economy.  About 80 percent say Calgary 2026 is an “ideal choice” for the 2026 host city.

But the poll further reveals that 66 percent of Albertans fear the Games would put the city in “serious debt,” and only 49 percent agree that provincial tax dollars should support the CAD $4.6 billion budget estimated for the Games.  That number increases to 57 percent when when Calgary municipal tax dollars are considered.

With all things considered, 56 percent of respondents agreed “there are more benefits thank risks to hosting the 2026 Olympics.”

The poll was taken March 23-27 using a sample of 1,303 Canadians with a higher concentration in Alberta.  It is accurate ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

These numbers come at a critical time, just days before Calgary City council will decide whether to move forward with a plebiscite over the bid – probably in October this year.  Last month the Federal and Provincial Governments agreed to pitch in financial support for the bid, but the CAD $9.5 million provincial bid funding may come with a condition.  According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, funding will only be extended with a planned plebiscite.

City Councillors will meet to debate the plebiscite April 10 and will no doubt discuss the politics around how the question will be created and approved.

With all plebiscites, there are as many results as there are questions – and the success of the vote could hinge on whether the question focuses on the desire to host the Games, or the willingness to take on the financial risk.

Councillors are expected to vote on whether to move forward with a bid in June, but if a city-wide vote is already in planning they’ll likely leave the decision up to the taxpayers.

A bid opposition movement is quickly forming in Calgary that could also help push results to the ‘no’ side.  A similar plebiscite was held in Vancouver in 2003 to approve the city’s winning 2010 Olympic bid.  While there was a lot of vocal opposition, an independent ‘yes’ group was formed that helped balance the results, and 64 percent ultimately voted in favor of the bid.

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While the poll shows Canadians are risk-averse when it comes to financing the Games, it seems they still support the Olympic Movement despite recent corruption within the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and related to the Games themselves.  The IOC will be happy to learn that only 40 percent of those surveyed believe there is “too much” corruption for them to support a bid, and 36 percent were concerned about the risk of a terror attack at the Games.

On Tuesday the IOC confirmed Calgary’s application and announced that seven countries in total have submitted letters-of-interest in bidding for the 2026 Games including cities Erzurum in Turkey, Graz in Austria, Milan, Turin and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy, Sapporo in Japan, Sion in Switzerland and Swedish Capital Stockholm.

Along with Calgary, Turin, Sapporo and Cortina d’Ampezzo have hosted previous Games.

Qualified candidates will be invited to continue bidding in October and the IOC will elect a winner September 2019.

About Robert Livingstone

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.