Calgary city council asked to pitch in $2.5M more to pursue 2026 Olympic bid

Calgary's city council is being asked to approve another $2.5 million for the formation of a bid corporation for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, bringing the city's total cost of bidding to $9.5 million if council approves the funds.

Funds would bring total contributions from city to $9.5M

Fans cheer and wave flags as the Canadian delegation parades during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in February 1988 in Calgary. (Jonathan Utz/AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATE: The report on Calgary's possible Olympic bid, released Friday, incorrectly stated that the city had confirmed financial support from the federal and provincial governments, city council said in a release on Saturday.

The original story appears below.

Calgary's city council is being asked to approve another $2.5 million for the formation of a bid corporation for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, bringing the city's total cost of a bid to $9.5 million if council approves the funds.

An update on the dialogue stage of the city's potential bid — which is set to be presented to council on Wednesday — shows the city has received confirmation of financial support from both the federal and provincial governments.

The bid's corporation's proposed budget — which covers all expenses until September 2019, when the International Olympic Committee is expected to award the Games — is $30 million, with $10.5 million coming from Ottawa, $10 million from the government of Alberta and the rest from the city.

Cheryl Oates, Premier Rachel Notley's communications director, said discussions between the province and city are ongoing, and that the province hopes to be in a position to announce a decision soon.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he's expecting to hear an official announcement shortly.

"I think that there is some i-dotting and some t-crossing going on, but it sounds like the parties are really all in a place together where they'd like to explore this further," Nenshi said. 

"Conversations continue with the other orders of government. We do not have formal confirmation of their financial participation in a bid corporation," said Daorcey Le Bray, the mayor's communications advisor. 

Once federal and provincial funding is in place, the city would release an additional $1 million from the fiscal stability reserve fund that council approved in November 2017 to be used for the bid.

Any additional funds would have to be covered by the private sector, the report said.

Council to vote in June

Just because a bid corporation is set up, however, doesn't commit the city to moving ahead with a formal bid. 

The report notes that the funds and preparations need to be in place in advance in case the city does decide to proceed.

Nenshi has said that a council vote will come in June as to whether or not Calgary will proceed with a bid, but Coun. Jeromy Farkas said he will ask council next week to put any bid plans to a public vote.

"Well, we've asked all sorts of questions. What does it cost? What are the logistics? But we haven't actually asked the most important question which is: Do Calgarians want this?" Farkas said.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he's expecting an announcement on federal and provincial funding for a Calgary Olympic bid soon. (CBC)

Plebiscites are usually non-binding, but Farkas also plans to ask council to respect the outcome of a city-wide vote. 

The city clerk's office said a vote would cost $1.96 million, and that it would take six months notice to hold a vote on an issue like this, because it would take time to hire and train election staff, find poll locations, draw up the question, print ballots and set up advanced polls.

A bid committee would include representatives from the city, province, federal government, as well as representatives from the Town of Canmore, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Indigenous communities in the region.

Should council decide not to proceed with a bid, any unused funds would be returned to their source, the report states.

With files from Scott Dippel