Council's new Olympics committee up and running

City council's new Olympics sub-committee held its first meeting Tuesday.

Committee formed to head off further misunderstandings and to give council more input

Coun. Evan Woolley was elected chair of the city's new Olympics oversight committee at the seven-member panel's first meeting on Tuesday (CBC, Jonathan Utz/AFP/Getty Images)

A new committee set up by city council to give it greater oversight on a potential 2026 winter Olympics bid held its first meeting Tuesday.

The committee was created following complaints from council members about problems in the city's processes.

Coun. Evan Woolley was elected chair of the new body. He said he's looking to bring order to the process with his new role.

After the meeting, Woolley said the committee members have their work cut out for them.

"We have to go out and do the hard work on the ground," he said. "We've got council direction to work through this process, to look at what this deal is going to look like and to undertake engagement with Calgarians about what that might be.

"So this really is an exercise in grinding out the work."

Three skeptics

When council approved setting up the committee, it was to include the mayor and four councillors.

But after Coun. Peter Demong was the only Olympic skeptic voted by council members in a closed-door meeting to sit on the panel, the committee was expanded by two more members.

Coun. Druh Farrell and Coun. Joe Magliocca, who have also voted against an Olympic bid, were named to join Demong on the committee.

At Tuesday's meeting, Demong urged his fellow committee members to be "open to persuasion" on the Olympic file rather than blindly sticking to their positions. 

Decisions go to city council

Mayor Naheed Nenshi did not put his name forward to chair the group.

He told reporters the panel has an important function as he expects sometime in the next two months, city council must decide if Calgary will actually bid for the 2026 Olympics.

"This group needs to give direction on negotiations on what a deal could look like so that we can bring a deal back to council," said Nenshi. 

Any decisions made by the committee will go to city council. A bid corporation is in the process of being formed.

City manager urges fun

City manager Jeff Fielding tried to inject some levity into the first meeting of the council committee.

He encouraged members to try to have fun as they work on some of the nuts and bolts of what could become a multi-billion dollar project that puts Calgary into an international spotlight.

Nenshi said afterwards he interpreted Fielding's quip as a call for council to be open to the possibilities. 

"And maybe it's the wrong thing. Maybe it's not going to work. Maybe we can't get the money to work," said Nenshi. 

"But let's open our minds to be creative, to be imaginative, to dream about what is possible and I think that's really what Fielding was getting at."

The International Olympic Committee will release a short list of candidate cities this October.

Organizing committees in each of those cities will then prepare formal bids to the IOC for the 2026 games. It will then select a host city in September 2019.