Canada’s Province of Alberta pledged critical financial support of CAD $700 million (USD $537) to a potential Calgary 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games Friday, but has attached strict conditions to the offer.
The proposed funding comes CAD $300 million short of the anticipated $1 billion dollars, possibly forcing the municipal government to spend more money on the project.
“Moreover, we will not be providing any form of guarantee for additional costs arising from any source,” a letter from Alberta Minister of Finance Joe Ceci to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Canada’s Minister of Sport Kirsty Duncan read, also suggesting that the Province would not cover any cost over-runs.
Ceci later said, when asked why Alberta wouldn’t cover over-runs, “We feel quite comfortable with the $700 million. We want the Games to be on time and on budget.”
“It was a number we felt comfortable putting in relative to the situation we’re in at the provincial government level,” he added.
The announcement comes just ahead of the promised deadline of 30 days before the city is set to hold a plebiscite on the Olympic bid. The Province has also made the funding contingent on a positive non-binding plebiscite result and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarding the city the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The provincial government will fund the $2 million plebiscite.
In his letter, Ceci stipulates that “Calgary 2026 become subject to provincial transparency and freedom of information laws, or other equivalent rules or regulations.”
Up until now, Calgary city council has considered the project exempt from such legislation.
The lower funding amount might complicate the bid’s budget proposal that has already been shared with Calgary taxpayers. The project has identified CAD $3 billion in capital and non-Olympic costs. Ottawa typically contributes 50 percent of the costs (in this case $1.5 billion) of major sports events, though the Federal government has yet to specify a specific pledge to Calgary 2026.
Calgary City Council had anticipated it would be on the hook for $500 million or about 15 percent of the budget, but with reduced provincial share it may now have to ante up at least $800 million – 60 percent more than originally thought. The city will also be on the hook for cost over-runs on the capital budget.
That would likely impact the decision of voters, who currently poll 54 percent in support – as they head to the polls next month.
The total Calgary 2026 budget, including organizing costs that could be totally offset by revenues, comes to about $5.2 billion.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi with Olympic Assessment Committee Chair Evan Woolley issued a statement responding to the Province’s announcement.
“We’re pleased that the Province has come forward with their investment. We have to analyze this announcement, while continuing our conversations with the Government of Canada,” it read.
Bid Chair Scott Hutcheson also released a statement that read “Today’s announcement demonstrates solid progress and support from the Government of Alberta and we are thankful for that. We are also pleased our other government partners – the City of Calgary and the Federal Government – continue to move forward with their discussions and negotiations.”
“We will continue to offer out support, where needed.”
Earlier Friday Stockholm’s newly formed coalition city government rejected Sweden’s bid to host the 2026 Games, refusing to provide any funding and leaving the project likely to be cancelled.
A third bid from Italy being forwarded jointly by Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo lacks any federal government funding and must still collect approvals after being hastily organized last month. The three bids were approved as candidates by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Tuesday.
No formal budgets have been released by Sweden or Italy.
Erzurum, a fourth bid, was dropped from the short list after it was deemed too expensive.
Bid books along with most stakeholder guarantees are due into the IOC on January 11, and the host city will be elected from among remaining candidates in June 2019.