Calgary could use Saddledome for 2026 Olympics, IOC signals to local bid project team

International Olympic Committee officials assured the team in charge of exploring a possible Calgary bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics that the aging Saddledome would still be an acceptable venue for hockey and figure skating.

Arena used in 1988 Games still viewed as acceptable for hockey and figure skating

This shot of the Scotiabank Saddledome and downtown Calgary was captured by drone in March 2017. The arena opened in 1983. (Ed Middleton/CBC)

International Olympic Committee officials assured the team in charge of exploring a possible Calgary bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics that the aging Saddledome would still be an acceptable venue for hockey and figure skating. 

Kyle Ripley, director of the Calgary 2026 Olympic Bid Project Team, also said at a media briefing Tuesday that last week's visit by IOC officials was a confidence booster.

"I would suggest that we're more confident that our games concept is acceptable to the IOC," he said.

"We still have much work to do around due diligence to validate our concepts, work through our financial models, and ensure that the games can meet the criteria that were established by council in July."

Fans cheer and wave flags during the opening ceremony of the Calgary Olympics in 1988. The Calgary 2026 Olympic Bid Project Team says meetings with the International Olympic Committee last week were fruitful. (Jonathan Utz/AFP/Getty Images)

Ripley says the IOC confirmed it would be open to the idea of Calgary using 1988 legacy facilities in 2026, including the Olympic Oval for speed skating and the Saddledome for hockey and figure skating.

The Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, opened in 1983 and is the second-oldest arena in the NHL.

Ripley said the meetings were a chance to talk about plans and challenges, and learn more about the IOC's candidature process and its revised criteria.

Ripley says officials are also looking at the logistics of holding some events in other cities with existing facilities.

Less costly Olympics

The IOC's visit to Calgary is part of its effort to make hosting the Olympics more sustainable and less costly for host cities

"Our visit to Calgary was a great opportunity to speak with city and provincial leaders about the IOC's new approach to bidding for and organizing the Olympic Winter Games," said Jacqueline Barrett, associate director of Olympic candidatures, in a release.

"By working with each city and National Olympic Committee to understand the context and their project, we can provide on-site expertise and technical assistance to help cities develop a project that aligns with local, regional and national long-term goals and allows for the hosting of more sustainable, cost- effective Olympic Winter Games."

Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Overholt said the meetings were very productive.

"The Calgary Olympic Bid Project Team was very well prepared and it reflected in their work and the quality of our meetings," he said. "We look forward to continuing to provide our support as we explore the potential of 2026 together."

Calgary needs federal, provincial support

The city says it expects to hear whether the provincial and federal governments will commit to helping fund an Olympic bid by early February.

If the province and Ottawa do make commitments, council will then vote whether to go ahead with incorporation of a bid company. There would then be followup visits from the IOC in March and June.

The bid project team is sending a delegation to observe the Pyeongchang Games next month.

"The Observer Programme gives interested cities an opportunity to experience the Winter Games first-hand and meet with experts about all aspects of Games management, which would support the development of a stronger bid," the release said.