Pro-Olympics group calls estimated $5.8B cost for Calgary 2026 'acceptable'

The group lobbying Calgarians to support a 2026 Olympic bid has released figure showing the event could cost $5.8 billion. But it says the city's share of that cost — $500 million — makes it worthwhile to pursue a bid.

Yes Calgary 2026 says city's share of that cost — about $500M — makes a bid worthwhile

The Olympic rings are seen at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Calgary is mulling a bid for the 2026 Olympics. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

The group that wants Calgarians to support a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games has released its own numbers on the event.

Yes Calgary 2026 says the numbers show landing the Games won't break the bank at city hall.

The group used a noon-hour luncheon Thursday with the Calgary Booster Club to present its own estimates.

It says it pulled together the figures from various existing sources like the Vancouver 2010 organizers and Calgary's bid exploration committee.

Yes Calgary says the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games could cost $5.8 billion.

Net cost estimated to be $3.3B

However, it believes $2.5 billion in revenues are possible, making making the net cost $3.3 billion.

That figure must be covered with money from the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

We think … the number that Calgary taxpayers will be responsible for in 2026 will be off-set by the benefits that will be derived.- Emma May, Yes Calgary 2026

While negotiations between the governments continue, Emma May with the group says they expect a funding deal that requires approximately 50 to 55 per cent coming from the federal government, 30 to 35 per cent from the province and 15 per cent from city hall.

Using that math, Calgary's share would be about $500 million.

"We think that actually when you break this down, that the number that Calgary taxpayers will be responsible for in 2026 will be off-set by the benefits that will be derived," said May.

These are the first Olympic cost numbers to circulate since the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee's report was tabled last year. 

It estimated the 2026 Olympics and Paralympics would cost $4.6 billion.

Next week, city council will hear the updated version of the Olympic plan and costs prior to deciding whether or not the bid work should continue.

A council vote to halt the project would also head off the need for a plebiscite on Nov. 13, which will ask Calgarians if they want the bid to go ahead.

"We're really trying to fill that void right now with as much clear, focused information as we can and get council to give us the opportunity to have that public vote on it," said May.

Future cost for sport facilities a factor

Yes Calgary 2026 says the city's future costs for new sports facilities and upgrades could be even higher than the bill for an Olympics if it doesn't land the Games.

"They're going to need to be upgraded over the years, so why would we not bring this as part of the bid process and get the benefit of the Games as well as updating all of our current infrastructure," said May.

The $5.8-billion cost of the Games breaks down like this:

  • $2.5 billion for running the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • $1.1 billion for new facilities and upgrading existing facilities.
  • $1 billion for security.
  • $1 billion for housing.
  • $200 million for an endowment to maintain Olympic facilities into the future.

The group said anticipated revenues for the Games are $2.5 billion, including $1.2 billion from the International Olympic Committee and money from ticket sales.

Coun. Druh Farrell, who has opposed an Olympic bid, said all Calgarians need accurate numbers so there can be decisions made.

When asked if these numbers sound plausible, she said "I can't say."

Coun. Sean Chu took to Twitter to react. He questioned where Yes Calgary 2026 got the figures.

"These were all confidential and we were told NOT TO DISCLOSE," he tweeted.

When asked by reporters if the numbers were accurate, Chu said he couldn't comment.

But could Calgary afford $500 million for this project? Chu said no, given the city's financial position.

A four-year budget plan will be presented to council in November.

"City manager Jeff Fielding is already saying citizens get ready, services cuts are coming. We add on more debt, $500 million? How many services would you like to be cut?" asked Chu.