Still unanswered questions as Calgary ponders Olympic bid

The group evaluating whether Calgary should bid on the 2026 Olympic Winter Games has concluded there's no question it's feasible. But is it prudent?

Group still report 'directly to council' on Monday

The Saddledome, built as part of Calgary's preparations to host the 1988 Winter Games, is one of the venues that could be re-used if the city hosted another Olympics in 2026. But the bid exploration committee says a new, full-sized arena would also be needed. (Ed Middleton/CBC)

The group evaluating whether Calgary should bid on the 2026 Olympic Winter Games has concluded there's no question it's feasible. But is it prudent?

The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee wants city council to know that it has some big unanswered questions and more work is needed before the city should consider bidding for the games.

"While we believe a Calgary 2026 Games bid is feasible, the question of prudence is quite different," says the report, which was partially released on Friday.

The list of unknowns includes some major questions. Will the federal and provincial governments commit to financially covering the cost of the event? Will changes yet to be unveiled by the International Olympic Committee result in a meaningful difference to the costs and revenue estimates for another Calgary Olympics?

The recommendation will be "presented directly" to city councillors at their meeting on Monday.

City council voted in June 2016 to allocate $5 million to study the feasibility of another Olympic bid, after Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Games. The committee is projected to spend only $2.9 million.

That led to the formation of the bid committee, which was headed up by former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson.

Last month, the bid committee released a report estimating it would require $2.4 billion in funding to cover the shortfall between revenue and costs if Calgary were to host the Olympics in 2026.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Wednesday he's "not a big fan" of that price tag, which would likely have to be covered by a combination of funds from the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

Deadlines for decision pushed back

Nenshi also said he doesn't expect the committee will recommend a "yes" vote in its final report to council, especially now that the International Olympic Committee has pushed back the deadlines for submitting a bid.

The report from city staff, which will also be presented to council on Monday, notes the original deadline for declaring interest in a bid was September 2017 but the IOC announced earlier this month it would bump that October 2018.

As a result, the report says city staff "will need to consider numerous factors in determining whether to pursue a bid or not and when an official decision is required by city council."

The mayor said on Wednesday it's likely city council will wait until after the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February 2018 before making a decision on a Calgary bid for 2026.

The recommendation from the bid committee is non-binding and the ultimate decision would need to be made by city council.