Calgary among 7 interested in hosting 2026 Olympics

Calgary is one of seven cities, or joint-bidding cities, that have expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics, the IOC said on Tuesday.

Cities that previously hosted Games have advantage, IOC exec says

Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, is among several other former hosts interested in staging the 2026 Games. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Calgary is one of seven cities, or joint-bidding cities, that have expressed interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday.

Austria's Graz, Swedish capital Stockholm, Sion in Switzerland, Turkey's Erzurum, Japan's Sapporo and a joint bid from Italy's Cortina d'Ampezzo, Milan and Turin are also in the initial process.

There is considerable Olympic experience in the field with Calgary having hosted the 1988 Winter Games and Sapporo having staged the 1972 edition. Cortina is also a former host, having organized the 1956 Winter Olympics, with Turin hosting in 2006.

The cities will now enter a dialogue stage until October when the IOC will invite an unspecified number of them to take part in the one-year candidature phase.

The IOC will elect the winning 2026 bid at its session in Milan in September 2019.

Christophe Dubi, the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games, said bid cities that previously served as hosts have an advantage.

"You start from incredible assets and a lot of strength in Canada," said Dubi in a conference call from Lausanne, Switzerland Tuesday.

"I won't be shy to repeat that you have not only the venues but you have the expertise including in the last games that you organized [2010 in Vancouver.]"

Dubi said there is also a built-in advantage for areas that are already international sports destinations.

"We want to use existing infrastructures as much as possible. Whether it was hosting of previous Winter Games or whether this is a region that regularly hosts World Cups, World Championships or other multi-sport events, it's always better because we can work with that [which] already exists," Dubi said.

"We don't need to build."

Overhauled bidding process

The IOC has overhauled the bidding process for Games after a sharp slump in interest from potential cities in recent years, cutting costs for bid cities and slashing the campaign time in half. It has also simplified the seven-year preparation for Games organizers, reducing costs, upping the IOC's contribution and allowing host cities more flexibility in planning for the Olympics and the post-Games use of facilities.

"I warmly welcome the National Olympic Committees' and cities' interest in hosting the Olympic Winter Games," said IOC President Thomas Bach in a statement.

"The IOC has turned the page with regard to Olympic candidatures. Our goal is not just to have a record number of candidates, but ultimately it is to select the best city to stage the best Olympic Winter Games for the best athletes of the world."

The cost in Calgary of making a formal bid for the Olympics is about $30 million and the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee concluded last year that hosting the 2026 Games would cost $4.6 billion.

The federal and Alberta governments say they will support the formation of a bid corporation but the province says the idea should be put to voters in a plebiscite first.

"We don't see a problem with this, on the contrary," said Dubi.

"If there is a public consultation, it has to welcomed. A project of this nature has an impact, hopefully a positive impact, on the lives of the citizen for a long term duration."

When it comes to paying for the Games, Dubi noted the IOC sets aside a contribution ahead of time which makes up a "significant chunk" of the overall Olympic budget.

But he said those involved must be realistic when working out the numbers.

"What it takes now is to make sure that the budgets that are being presented are extremely strong, down to the very last detail."

The IOC said there had already been interest for 2030, from the United States Olympic Committee among others. The 2022 Winter Games will be held in Beijing after four other cities dropped out of the bid race for fear of soaring costs and size of the Olympics, leaving the Chinese capital and Kazakhstan's Almaty as the only candidates.

More cities dropped out of the 2024 Summer Olympics race with the IOC opting to award them directly to Paris and in turn give Los Angeles, which had also bid for 2024, the 2028 Games.

With files from The Canadian Press


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