The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) CEO Chris Overholt quietly sent letters to mayors of seven cities across the country last month probing for interest in bidding to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, according to a PostMedia report Friday.
The deadline to respond to the request was set for the end of June.
Mayors from Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal were named as recipients of the letters and if any of the cities want to get involved the COC will have to submit an application to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) before the end of 2017.
Over the past week Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume visited IOC headquarters in Lausanne and believes his provincial capital is a good fit with the organization’s Agenda 2020, a set of reforms that encourages lower-cost, more efficient and sustainable Games plans. The IOC passed on Quebec’s bid for the 2002 Games and the city hasn’t received the COC’s nomination since. A major problem is the lack of adequate nearby mountains to host Alpine Skiing events, so Labeaume has suggested sharing the hosting duties with Calgary, Whistler or even Lake Placid, New York.
But why would Calgary want to share something it can handle on its own? The Albertan city has been quietly considering such a bid, planning to rejuvenate many of the venues used to host the 1988 Games – and must be considered the only possible candidate should the COC decide to file a bid next year.
Vancouver successfully hosted the Games in 2010 and won’t likely pursue another bid just 16 years later.
The inclusion of the other four cities on the list is likely just a courtesy by Overholt. If Edmonton hosts, they’d likely need to borrow the ski jump and sliding venues from Calgary, just as Quebec hopes to do. And as mentioned, Calgary is happy to go in alone.
Ottawa and Montreal, only an hour apart from each other, would face the same problems as Quebec City – the need to find adequate slopes. Those, and the closest existing ski jump and sliding venues are located inconveniently across the U.S. border in Lake Placid. There is little chance that either of the cities would want to build those costly venues from scratch, especially for Montreal after it famously took decades to pay off the 1976 Summer Games.
Toronto, after successfully hosting the 2015 Pan Am Games, rejected a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games at the last hour due to cost and public support concerns. However the Mayor did not rule out a future bid and promised more research would be done to analyze other potential major events. But the Winter Olympic Games is probably not one of them.
Ontario’s capital is attitudinally challenged, just like the other the other cities in Eastern Canada, and would need to team up with Lake Placid as well.
To allow cities to develop lower cost bid plans, the IOC’s Agenda 2020 effectively loosens restrictions for siting venues within a bid – allowing events to be held in multiple cities, or in extreme cases across national borders. But bids still need to remain competitive against rivals when the IOC votes for a winner, and compact plans that strengthen the athletes’ experience and the overall Games concept will always be preferred.
The COC has yet to make any decisions on its plans to bid, or whether the next attempt will be for Winter or Summer Games. It will decide on a course of action for 2026 sometime next year.
Currently Almaty in Kazakhstan, after a failed bid for the 2022 Games, along with Switzerland and Sweden, are considering 2026 Winter Games bids.