Calgarians to get clear picture of Olympic cost in June: committee

Calgarians will get an updated estimate in June on just how much the 2026 Winter Olympics could cost, as well as exactly how much money the federal and provincial governments would commit if Calgary stages the Games.

So far $5.2 million has been spent on bid exploration

A young girl learns to skate on the ice at Calgary Olympic Plaza on a warm day in 2014. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Calgarians will get an updated estimate in June on just how much the 2026 Winter Olympics could cost, as well as exactly how much money the federal and provincial governments would commit if Calgary stages the Games.

In 2017, the bid exploration committee estimated that the Olympics could cost Calgary $4.6 billion, but despite the fact a bid committee is still being formed, city officials told a council committee Tuesday that it will have revised operating and capital budgets ready for council next month. 

"I would expect that Calgarians are going to have a very clear idea of the operating costs and the capital costs," said Coun. Evan Woolley, who is chair of the City's Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Oversight Committee. 

"We need to balance that with the competitiveness of our bid."

Those numbers could be revised as Calgary nears the deadline for submitting a formal bid to the International Olympic Committee in January 2019.

Woolley said they hope the federal and provincial governments make funding announcements soon.

"We know that we can do all of the work on the capital and operating side, right? On the funding side, we can ask and push but it is dependent on other members' timelines."

Coun. Evan Woolley says he expects Calgarians will have a 'very clear idea' of the costs of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

The committee also endorsed a number of recommendations intended to increase transparency and accountability. They presented a list of consultants hired by the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee and budget spent to date, updated terms clarifying the committee's role, proposed committee meeting agendas through mid-June and a new governance structure.

The committee has spent $5.2 million to date out of the $30 million committed to bid exploration, with $9.5 million coming from the City, the province committing $10 million — with further funding contingent on a plebiscite — and the remainder from Ottawa.

"I think one of the things that I have been asking in my role as chair is to get a very clear line of sight as to who's working on what, what's left to be done now," said Woolley, who added that the council will err on the side of openness and transparency.

Plebiscite should happen soon: Woolley

He said on May 29 options for a plebiscite and non-statutory public hearing will be brought forward for discussion.

"I think as we're having this robust public conversation and engagement with Calgarians now we would want that plebiscite question to happen as soon as possible."

Woolley also said to expect announcements on appointees to the advisory sub-committee and the chair of the bid corporation within the coming weeks. 

With files from Scott Dippel