Alberta’s two major cities have always been in competition, but there’s a possibility they could come together to put forward a bid to host one or two international sporting events.
In 1978, the Commonwealth Games helped define Edmonton. The Winter Olympics did the same for Calgary in 1988.
This week, Calgary City Council approved funding for a committee to explore the feasibility of bidding on hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.
“It’s time in the cultural history of the city for us to bid for another Olympic Games,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.
More than a year ago, Edmonton withdrew its bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games after the province withdrew its financial support. However, that means Edmonton has the first right of acceptance for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson doesn’t think it would be realistic to expect senior levels of government to support two different international bids the same year in Alberta, but he thinks there might be some power in teaming up.
“The possibility of doing an Alberta Commonwealth Games or an Alberta Winter Olympics bid in 2026 is probably worth talking about with at least the province and Calgary,” Iveson said. “I’ve raised that earlier this week with Mayor Nenshi and we’ll talk about it.”
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The mayor stressed any talk about the hosting option is extremely preliminary.
“I think we have to have a conversation about which is the right bid to put forward for Alberta and Canada,” Iveson said.
In recent years, governing bodies for both the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games have opened up to the idea of regional bids.
“Although it may have been unheard of to joint host a games, that may be changing in the years to come,” Dan Mason, professor of Sports Management at the University of Alberta, said. “Having said that though, I don’t think Calgary needs to co-host an Olympic Games with Edmonton, that’s the issue. They already have the infrastructure. They have the mountains, the skiing, they have all that in place there.
“Edmonton probably would be more interested in partnering with Calgary than vice versa.”
There’s also the issue of sharing any potential resources that come Alberta’s way.
“The federal government has policies related to the hosting of major events, where there’s only so much money to go around and they don’t want to give any one province too much opportunity. I think certainly it’s an either or.”
After the 2022 Commonwealth bid was withdrawn, Edmonton has been quiet about any plans for 2026.