The Current

'Nostalgia is not a vision': Campaigners lay out risks and rewards of Calgary Olympic bid

Calgarians go to the polls Tuesday, in a plebiscite on whether to pursue the bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The Current spoke to two people from either side of the debate.

Successful bid wouldn't leave the city with 'white elephants,' argues Yes campaigner

Calgarians go to the polls Tuesday, in a plebiscite on whether to pursue the bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. (David Bell/CBC)
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As Calgary prepares to vote on hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics, not everyone is convinced the city can recapture the success of welcoming the world's athletes in 1988.

"Nostalgia is not a vision," said Erin Waite, a spokesperson for No Calgary Olympics.

She told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that the 1988 Games took place under very different circumstances.

"It's completely different in scale ... how it developed at that time was different, the IOC-host city relationship is different," she said.

"All of those things were advantageous to Calgary, and Calgary benefited and it was fabulous — all of those things are not true now."

A Yes vote would put Calgary in the final three contenders for the 2026 Games, along with Stockholm in Sweden, and a joint bid from Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo, in Italy. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Calgarians are being asked to weigh up the potential risks and rewards when they go to the polls Tuesday, in a plebiscite on whether to pursue the bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Chief among concerns for No voters are the costs and the long-term benefits for the city.

A Yes vote would put Calgary in the final three contenders for the 2026 Games, along with Stockholm in Sweden, and a joint bid from Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo, in Italy. The International Olympic Committee's final decision is expected in June.

Globally, cities that host the Games have made huge investments only to be left with crumbling facilities and underused infrastructure.

Jason Ribeiro, with the group Yes Calgary 2026, argued that those problems have been considered this time around.

We've learned, I think, from the successes of the Pan Am Games, from the Vancouver 2010 Games.- Jason Ribeiro, Yes Calgary 2026

"Calgary and Canada have been incredibly responsive to that, and what they've said is that, 'We don't want to build any white elephants, or any facilities that don't get used, that's not what we did in 1988,'" he told Tremonti.

Instead, the city would "renew the 11 facilities from the '88 Olympics and only build two new ones," he explained.

"We've learned, I think, from the successes of the Pan Am Games, from the Vancouver 2010 Games, and said, 'What is it going to take in this climate, in this time to do this right,'" he said.

"And I think the bid committee has done that responsibly."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Calgary network producer Michael O'Halloran.

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