City poll suggests 53% of Calgarians support 2026 Olympic bid

Economic benefits and an increase in tourism were cited as main reasons for supporters getting behind the bid, while those against said the overall cost and taxation were major concerns.

Survey indicates 33% against bidding for Winter Games, 13% undecided

A new poll commissioned by the city will be presented to members of the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Assessment Committee at its regular meeting on Tuesday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A new poll commissioned by the city suggests 53 per cent of Calgarians support bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics, while 33 per cent are opposed and 13 per cent are are undecided. One per cent didn't respond to the survey.

Economic benefits and an increase in tourism were cited as main reasons for supporters getting behind the bid, while those against said the overall cost and taxation were major concerns.

Those who were undecided said a clear outline of the costs of bidding for and hosting the Games would help sway them.

The poll also suggested a bit of an information gap regarding a possible Olympic Games bid, with 47 per cent of respondents saying they feel moderately informed, and 29 per cent saying they feel not very informed and 13 per cent feeling not informed at all.

About 40 per cent of those who responded fall in the 35- to 54-year-old age demographic.

Stephen Carter, a spokesman for Yes Calgary 2026, says the poll results are positive, but the Yes side still has a lot of work to do to convince people that hosting the Games is a good idea. 

"When you look at the 70 per cent of people who are looking and want to see the economic case, that's where we really need to focus," he said. "We need to give them the economic information that will allow them to decide to vote for the Olympics, and I think it should be a relatively easy case to make."

Carter says he also has concerns about cost.

"The entire time, we've talked about 'not at any cost.' In fact, I haven't spoken to anybody who says we should do the Games regardless of the cost," he said. "It needs to make sense to the city of Calgary."

Carter says one key to keeping costs down on a potential bid will be re-using existing facilities.

"We don't need to do what Vancouver did, which is build a bunch of new infrastructure and roadways just to accommodate the Olympics," he said. "We have the infrastructure, we have the roadways, we have the LRT. We have them in part because we did this before."

Erin Waite, a spokeswoman for the group No Calgary Olympics, says opposition could grow as costs become known.

"At some point, there's got to be a value proposition where you understand the cost, the risks, cost overruns, contingency issues, as well as the benefits. Then you can make a decision for yourself," she said. 

Waite also points out the poll didn't include questions around the fact some events may not be held in Calgary.

"So that may affect how people feel about it as well," she said.

The poll will be presented to members of the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Assessment Committee at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Commissioned by city manager Jeff Fielding and done by NRG Research, the poll was carried out using randomly dialed cellphone and landline numbers between July 23 and 29 and is considered accurate within 4.38 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The results are similar to a poll done for CBC News in June, which suggested 50 per cent of Calgarians support a bid — a number that had fallen seven percentage points since March.

The preliminary cost of hosting the Games is pegged at $4.6 billion.

Plebiscite on Nov. 13

A non-binding plebiscite is set for Nov. 13. The plebiscite will ask: "Are you for or are you against Calgary hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?"

Residents will choose between "I am for Calgary hosting" or "I am against Calgary hosting," as the two possible answers.

The cost of the plebiscite is estimated at $2 million. 

The bid process could be halted before that happens, however.

There's a potential special meeting of council set for Aug. 27 that could result in a vote to halt work or continue. Then on Sept. 10, there will be another discussion at council that could result in a vote to wrap it up or allow the work to continue.

If the city does move ahead with a bid, it will be submitted in January 2019 and the host city will be chosen in September 2019. 

​With files from Reid Southwick.