A website called “Should Calgary Bid?” has been launched in order to update residents on the city’s potential plans to host the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, listing areas of exploration including social development, economic opportunity, cost and risk.
A lot has changed since 1988, but most of the venues built for those Olympics are still standing and could be used again, such as the Olympic Oval, which has some of the fastest ice in the world almost 30 years later.
“A lot of the existing venues are in good shape,” said Calgary’s former police chief Rick Hanson, who is heading the bid exploration committee.
“Will they need some modifications? Some of them will. Others might need more work done than others.”
Off the ice, the Oval is showing its age: the sight lines and seats could use a face lift. But other than those upgrades plus new ski jumps and a second arena, Calgary may be in a position to host again without having to buy other new venues.
“The benefit that will be derived from this can hopefully be monetized on one hand and be clearly evident to the people who have to make the decisions,” he said.
Three decades ago, the Games cost about $1 billion. In 2026, that could be the cost just to secure them. Some have pegged the total price tag at $5.3 billion–less than the $7.7 billion spent on Vancouver in 2010.
No provincial or federal funding has been promised as of yet.
“One of the things that we’re very much aware of is the cost-overrun issue,” Hanson said.
At a press conference Thursday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said most of the $5 million granted by city council for Olympic exploration work will go towards creating a “hosting plan.”
“The hosting plan is very useful even if we choose not to bid on the Olympics, because it gives us a real sense of the city’s ability to host very large-scale events in terms of: what hotel rooms do we have? What transportation networks do we have? As well as what facilities can fit modern standards, from conventions to sporting events?
“I understand they are certainly looking at coming in at or below their budget by the time they get here in July and resources are really focused on creating that content.”
After the recommendation is presented in July, council will then decide on whether to move forward with a formal bid, which is required sometime next year.
While Hanson is looking at the prospects with enthusiasm, his focus is on being objective.
“We need to answer the question: why would we? What’s the net benefit to Calgary, Alberta and Canada?”
With files from Erika Tucker
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