Security costs unknown for potential 2026 Olympic Games in Calgary

The Calgary Olympic Bid Exploration Committee is exploring how much it would cost for security for a potential 2026 Games in the city.

Security for the 2010 Games in Vancouver neared $1B

Former police chief Rick Hanson, who heads the Calgary Olympic Bid Exploration Committee, says security could be a major cost if Calgary were to host the 2026 Winter Games. (CBC)

It can cost a lot of money for a city to host the Olympics, what with new ice rinks and other facilities to construct.

That hefty price tag is one thing that has divided Calgarians when talking about whether or not the city should put in a bid to host the 2026 Winter Games. 

The Calgary Olympic Bid Exploration Committee, which is in the midst of studying the feasibility of hosting the games, is also considering another variable that could throw off estimates on how much it would cost — security. 

Former police chief Rick Hanson, who is heading up the exploratory committee, said it's difficult to guess how much it would cost for security in 2026.

Olympic athletes from China, centre, are framed by RCMP officers keeping watch on the baggage claim area as regular passengers and Olympic athletes arrive at Vancouver International Airport in 2010. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"The generally acknowledged amount most recently was close to $1 billion in Vancouver," Hanson told the Calgary Eyeopener. It was by far the largest cost associated with the 2010 Games, he added.

The number of venues, and where they will be located, is a big factor in determining the cost of security, he said.

"If you have just three or four areas where you have the majority of the events, that reduces your security footprint and your costs," he explained. 

Though organizers could set a ballpark estimate for security now, that number would likely go up by the time 2026 arrives, Hanson said.

"That's what happened in Vancouver," Hanson said.  "They initially estimated under $200 million."

War 'changed everything'

One of the main reasons for such a high cost of security in 2010 was the war in Afghanistan, Hanson said. 

"It changed everything, and you tend to forget those types of things," he said. "We couldn't say today with 100 per cent certainty that this is going to be the cost, because things could really change. There could be events involving terrorism right in Canada at that point in time, or there could be a real change in the temperature of the whole world as relates to that type of thing."

Hanson, who was the officer in charge of overseeing joint security arrangements for the 2002 G8 summit in Kananaskis Country, said the federal government would foot the bill for most security costs. 

"It involves primarily federal departments to a large degree," he said, pointing to CSIS, the Department of National Defence and RCMP as examples.

Hanson said the committee will present its estimate to council with the caveat that "things do change."

The committee's final report is expected to be presented in July.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener