Edmonton mayor Don Iveson hasn’t completely shut the door on a potential joint-city 2026 Winter Olympics bid.
Calgary continues to pursue the opportunity, with council voting Monday to spend up to $2 million more on work towards a possible bid.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said support from all three levels of government would be critical. City staff estimated a bid price tag would be between $25 million and $30 million.
Calgary council also voted to study venues outside of Calgary as a cost-saving measure, which could mean using Edmonton’s facilities or incorporating venues from the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
While there have not been any official talks between Calgary and Edmonton on the subject, Iveson is wary but open.
“We haven’t been approached formally in any way and council hasn’t had a chance to evaluate anything,” he said on Monday. “We’ve done our own thinking about how we want to play in the international event space and we’re more circumspect about these large and very expensive events.
“That said, if there was a will to move forward on an Alberta- or western Canadian-basis, I think we’d be open to evaluating the costs and benefits,” Iveson said.
“But, on the advice on our citizen panel on this, we see the greatest opportunities with the mid-sized events in terms of bang for buck. But again, if there’s a will to look at a Canadian bid that’s more regional, obviously we’d evaluate that.”
READ MORE: Edmonton releases new major events report
In June, a report detailed how Edmonton should pursue “major and signature” events. The report requested a more cohesive approach and recommended hosting one huge event every 20 to 30 years while focusing on major and signature events.
Dan Mason, a professor of recreation, sport and tourism at the University of Alberta, isn’t convinced hosting the Olympics would be worth the cost.
“The Olympics have really struggled recently in delivering what they promise in terms of benefits,” he said in an email to Global News.
“Unless it can be done with existing infrastructure — or unless hosting can allow the city to access funds it otherwise wouldn’t be able to in order to build facilities that would be used longer term by residents — I am not sure if it would be worth it.”
Mason also doesn’t think Edmonton specifically needs an event like the Winter Olympics at this point in time “in terms of intangible and tourist benefits.”
— With files from The Canadian Press
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