Federal, provincial governments fund creation of Calgary Olympic bid corporation

Calgary has support if it chooses to form a bid corporation for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

City takes another step toward determining if a bid for 2026 Winter Games is right for Calgary

Fans cheer during the opening of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. (Jonathan Utz/AFP/Getty Images)

Calgary has support if it chooses to form a bid corporation for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

On Thursday, the city announced both the provincial and federal governments have pledged financial support for the creation of an Olympic bid corporation.

"This partnership is an exciting step towards determining if a bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is right for Calgary," said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in a release.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said he believes Calgary could do a great job of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics. (CBC)

"We have a strong legacy of sport in this city and we know we can host a great Games, and now, alongside our partners in the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada, we can continue to figure out if a 2026 Bid is the best interests of our citizens."

A representative from the City of Calgary confirmed to CBC News that Ottawa has committed $10.5 million in funds and the Government of Alberta has committed $10 million.

Vote to be held in June

Calgary will be releasing an additional $1 million from the Fiscal Stability Reserve toward the bid corporation and contributing an additional $2.5 million, bringing the city's total to $9.5 million, and the total budget for the bid corporation to $30 million.

The release of funds was confirmed by Calgary's city council on March 21. 

That budget would cover all expenses for a bid until September 2019, when the International Olympic Committee is expected to award the Games.

Forming a bid corporation does not guarantee a bid will happen. Nenshi has said a final vote on whether or not to bid will come in June. 

The issue will be raised again at council on April 10, when a committee will discuss plans for public engagement on the process.

Plebiscite needed before bid finalized

A spokesperson for the provincial government told CBC News that all parties have agreed a plebiscite needs to be held before a bid is finalized. The province said details on what a plebiscite would look like will be decided at a later date, and the government wants to ensure a bid would be in line with the wants, needs and expectations of Albertans.

Coun. Jeromy Farkas is in favour of allowing Calgarians to weigh in.

"How are we to believe we can host the Games differently, when the process to host the Games has been so unclear," Farkas said. 

Coun. Jeromy Farkas said he's concerned the city is throwing "good money after bad" if it forms a bid corporation. (James Young/CBC)

"I'm not hearing at the doors really that groundswell of support."

Farkas said he's concerned the Olympic bid seems like a "done deal."

"We're putting good money after bad," he said.

Bid not guaranteed

Coun. Shane Keating said he wants to see the numbers before he makes up his mind. He said the support doesn't mean anything is certain.

"It doesn't change anything we've been saying all along. We have to sit down, look at the facts, figures, numbers and then make a decision whether we should," Keating said. 

The bid, if successful, would be Canada's fourth Olympic Games — with previous games held in Montréal in 1976, Calgary in 1988, and Vancouver in 2010 — and the first time Calgary would host a Paralympic Games.

The city first began exploring the feasibility of a bid for the games in 2016. In February, the mayors of Calgary and Canmore and other government officials visited the Games in Pyeongchang as part of the Winter Olympics Observer Program.

Earlier in March, Calgary mistakenly posted an incorrect report stating the city had already received confirmation of funding from both governments. 

Provincial support

Thursday's announcement noted the governments support the establishment of a bid corporation that would develop hosting plans and a fully-costed event budget.

"Participating in the bid process will allow us to further examine the costs associated with hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games and ensure they are carefully balanced around the needs and expectations of Albertans, within the greater context of Alberta's economic recovery," said Alberta Culture Minister Ricardo Miranda.

Miranda said it's also very important for consultation with Indigenous people to take place before a bid moves forward.

Thursday's announcement said the Games could be excellent opportunities to both promote Indigenous involvement in sport and showcase Indigenous culture, but the government would also ensure that Indigenous territorial protocols are respected in the process.

"Until we have all the information we won't arrive at a decision, and that won't happen for a few months still," he said. 

Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards takes off from a ski jump in Calgary during the Winter Olympics on Feb. 14, 1988. (Glen Olsen/Winnipeg Free Press/The Canadian Press)

Stage 1 of bid process

IOC officials visited Calgary in January, when they outlined their hopes for a more accessible and less expensive Games.

They encouraged sustainable use of existing infrastructure in Calgary, and suggested events could be held in Calgary and Canmore if Calgary wins the bid.

The release noted that next steps are the incorporation of the official bid corporation, development of hosting plans and budgets, and the IOC selection of cities that will move forward to Stage 2, the candidature stage of the bid process. 

The city is in Stage 1 of the bid process, the dialogue stage, which is non-committal and focuses primarily on conversation between the city and IOC to assess the benefits and requirements of hosting.

With files from Diane Yanko, Laurent Pirot