Calgary to continue exploring 2026 Olympic Games bid

Calgary’s potential 2026 Olympic bid avoided being relegated to the dust bin Wednesday as city council voted to keep the process moving forward.

Questions centre around funding for security and infrastructure costs of hosting the Games

Calgary, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988, will continue exploring the potential of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympic Games after city council voted to keep the bid process moving forward. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Calgary's potential 2026 Winter Olympic Games bid avoided being relegated to the dust bin Wednesday as city council voted to keep the process moving forward.

That means administrators will work with the city solicitor to move the bid from the exploration phase to the invitation phase and spend the next month looking at what funding will be required.

An earlier report by the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee pegged the cost at $4.6 billion, which would be offset by $2.2 billion in revenue from ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and direct contributions from the International Olympic Committee. 

The remaining $2.4 billion would need to be made up from other sources.

An administration report presented to council this week outlined five principles for bidding on the Games, which include:

  • Capital costs be shared between the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

  • Security costs be covered by other orders of government, "given the international nature of the event."

  • Canadian taxpayers should not contribute directly to operating costs — instead, those should be covered by ticket sales, sponsorship, broadcast rights, International Olympic Committee contributions, and other earned revenues.

  • Because the city has limited debt capacity, there must be a financial structure which accommodates the cash flow and debt-level constraints of the city.

  • If the IOC requires financial guarantees, that they be provided by an entity other than the city or be deemed to be at an acceptable level for the city.

"This vote very much reflects what Calgarians have told us, which is that it would be a great thing to host the Olympics but it has to be right for Calgary," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

"What council decided today was, pencils down for a little while, let's analyze the deal L.A. has received [for the 2028 Summer Olympics] with the [International Olympic Committee], let's think about what might make sense for Calgary, let's refine some numbers," said Nenshi.

"But really, it's a matter of waiting until the IOC has a sense of what their host city contract for the Winter [Olympics] will look like and that probably won't be until next spring."

Joint bid with Edmonton may be explored

The city of Los Angeles announced its agreement with the IOC to host the 2028 Summer Olympics earlier this week, which will see the IOC advance funds to the L.A. organizing committee to recognize the extended planning period and to increase youth sports programs leading up to the Games.

Coun. Druh Farrell asked during the debate about the possibility of submitting a joint bid with Edmonton to improve the chances of receiving provincial funding, and was told that is something that will be explored. 

Funding for the next phase of work will come from a $5-million budget created for the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee, which has now completed its mandate, having spent $3 million. 

Coun. Peter Demong voted against continuing the process.

"I just think it's time that we face facts and look at the situation and say, 'We've got a debt situation with Calgary, it's not a bad situation right now but there's a number of things coming forward,'" he said.

"You look at the provincial end of things and there's an extensive debt issue building. The feds, again, are in a similar situation … there is a huge delta of dollars involved and I don't know if going forward with that is the right thing we should be doing right now."

CBEC issued its own report in July, which said the city would be capable of hosting the 2026 Games, but whether it would be financially feasible can't yet be determined.

A report will be brought back before council in September.