City council moves forward with study of 2026 Winter Olympic bid

Calgary Sport Tourism Association argues a bid would help lift the city and the province's economy, but wants an in-depth study to ensure the Games would be worthwhile.

Sports tourism authority briefed city politicians Monday, asking for $5M to study bid

Canada's Olympic athletes participate in the opening ceremonies at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. (Canadian Press)

Calgary city council took the first step in a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games, voting in favour of a feasibility study examining the costs and benefits of hosting the Games. 

The Calgary Sport Tourism Authority wants up to $5 million for the study.

Council was briefed behind closed doors before the debate moved to council chambers, with all but Coun. Druh Farrell and Coun. Sean Chu eventually supporting the proposal.

CSTA executive director Marco Di Iaco argued the timing is right and a bid could generate $3.7 billion in added GDP for the province.

But he said an in-depth study is needed to see if the bid would be worthwhile for the city. 

"We believe there's significant benefits to Calgary in pursuing this opportunity, but we want to be sure," he said.

Di Iaco said a portion of the $5 million should be raised privately.

If a bid is approved, the group would then engage the International Olympic Committee in an official bid, which would culminate in a July 2019 decision. 

Coun. Druh Farrell argued against the idea, and called the IOC a "deeply, deeply corrupt organization" that hasn't proven it's changing its ways. 

She said it's seductive to want to relive the 1988 Games, but the city has to be "really clear about what projects we want done."

"I would say very clearly that my priority is the Green Line," she said.

Others, like Coun. Ward Sutherland, said he supported giving over small amounts of money in the chase for billions in potential benefits. 

Reuse of facilities

Earlier in the day, Coun. Richard Pootmans said it's "simply too early in the process at this point" to speak in detail about the prospect of another Olympic bid but noted he has thought about the idea in broad terms.

"I know some assessments have been made of some of the facilities and some of them can be used," he said. "Some of them might require some upgrading, refurbishment, some modernizing. All of that has to be considered."

As part of the proposal at council, Di Iaco said the city is in a great position to reuse its old facilities and upgrade or replace those nearing the end of their lifespans. 

"One of the compelling arguments with a potential Calgary bid is we would be able to province a unique sustainable blueprint," he said of reuse rather than large-scale new construction.​

Former mayor Al Duerr also told CBC New Calgary at 6 that the city is in a good position to host the future games, as many of the needed facilities are already in place.

Al Duerr on possible Olympic bid

7 years ago
Duration 1:00
Former Calgary mayor Al Duerr gives his thoughts on the possibility of the city bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

COC and IOC looking for expressions of interest

The Canadian Olympic Committee wants to hear from Canadian cities interested in bidding for 2026 by the end of June.

The International Olympic Committee wants to hear from potential candidates by September next year. 

Last month, officials in Quebec City signalled they were no longer looking to make a bid.

And, last fall, Toronto Mayor John Tory said his city will not bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Paige MacPherson, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, was quick to speak out against the idea of the city hosting another Olympic Games, saying now is not the right time for it.

"There definitely are concerns about cost overruns and about this just being a very large, grandiose thing for the city to take on at a time when the federal government is broke, the province is broke and the city is currently looking for ways to cut spending," she said.

"Obviously, making a bid for the Olympics is not a way to cut spending; it's a way to sign us up for billions of dollars in new spending."

Precedent for repeat host cities

There are precedents for cities staging the Olympics more than once. St. Moritz, Switzerland, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948. Lake Placid, N.Y., hosted the Winter Games in 1932 and 1980. And Innsbruck, Austria, played host in 1964 and 1976.

Tokyo, host city of the 2020 Summer Olympics, also hosted the Games in 1964.

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China.

With files from CBC News Calgary