Olympic bid 'destructive' for Calgary, says councillor

A northside city councillor went to the heart of Victoria Park on Friday to rail against the city's potential Olympic bid.

Gondek voted against continuing Olympic project, wants council to focus on Victoria Park

Coun. Jyoti Gondek said the Olympic plan as it stands is a bad deal for Calgary. (Scott Dippel/ CBC)

A northside city councillor went to the heart of Victoria Park on Friday to rail against the city's potential Olympic bid.

Jyoti Gondek is part of the majority of city council that voted last week to wind down the 2026 Olympic bid. 

Despite their lack of support for the project, the bid work continues as it fell short of the ten votes needed to wrap up the bid corporation.

Gondek called a news conference and said that the financial agreements for funding the Games are "not the best possible deal for our City."

In an effort to trim costs, the bid corporation dropped plans to remove the Victoria Park transit garage to make way for an athletes' village. It's also dropped 1,000 housing units from the draft hosting plan.

Gondek said those moves actually hurt the city's plans for new housing and redeveloping Victoria Park into a new entertainment district.

"This bid is not a unifying vision any more. It is an incredibly destructive and polarizing force," said the rookie councillor.

"Let's get our focus back"

She intends to vote against the bid in next week's plebiscite. To her, a rejection of the Olympic vision would allow the city to get back to focusing on its priorities, like redeveloping Victoria Park. 

"Our issue is not a lack of vision. It's a lack of execution. Let's get our focus back. Let's finish what we started."

If Calgarians vote to go ahead with submitting an Olympic bid, she said that she will get behind what people want. 

But she's not sure that will be the same for everyone.

"There will be people who can't get over it," she said. "We need something to draw us together and I'm concerned that this will split us apart."

Pro-Olympic councillor agrees it's divisive

Another newcomer to council stopped by to listen to her remarks.

Coun. Jeff Davison is supporting the Olympic bid. He agrees that council needs to be more strategic in its planning for the major projects it has on its plate besides the Games.

But he feels the proposal that's before Calgarians in next week's plebiscite is a decent deal.

"With or without the Olympics, Winsport needs upgrades. So if we're maintain our status as a winter sports city, we're going to have to make that investment."

He wouldn't suggest how people should vote. But like Gondek, he does see how divisive the debate has become.

"It's really divided the city. It's divided opinions. It's divided council," said Davison.

"At the end of the day, whether or not we win the bid, it's not the end of the world for us. Calgary has a plan to move forward."

What pieces of that plan that could potentially happen depend on whether the Olympics come back to town and how much money the city has available for other projects.