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Andrea Montgomery: Why I am convinced the 2026 Olympics will be in Calgary

A uniform from the 1988 Olympic torch run is seen in Calgary on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009.
A uniform from the 1988 Olympic torch run is seen in Calgary on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

“The Olympics are definitely coming to Calgary”

That is what I said to a friend last week, in a southwest Calgary pub, while we marveled at how exciting Olympic curling can actually be.

“What? They decided? I didn’t hear that,” he remarked.

No, they haven’t decided. Not in an official “we are making a bid. Woohoo!” capacity. But, trust, Calgary will host the 2026 Olympics – even if we probably shouldn’t – and if you are opposed to the idea, now is a good time to start digesting it.

I first realized that the Olympic rings were written on the wall when council pledged an additional $2 million to explore the possibility of a bid after disbanding the Olympic Bid Exploration Committee. I still do not understand why the report from the committee was insufficient information to decide whether to proceed with a bid.

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WATCH: Calgary city council approves an additional 2 million dollars in funding for exploration of Olympic Bid. 

READ MORE: Evidence should trump emotion in Calgary Olympic bid talks: Mayor Nenshi

Then, mere weeks from the Pyeongchang games, officials from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) showed up in Calgary for a little tour and schmoozing.  They’ve maintained that the future of hosting the games will be “different” – more financially responsible, more flexibility, greater use of existing facilities.

They promoted the word “legacy,” which Mayor Naheed Nenshi quite liked. The IOC’s visit gave the distinct impression Calgary was a favourite. The visit occurred before we even decided to pull the trigger on a bid.

The little trip that provincial officials and several municipal mayors, including Mayor Nenshi, made recently to Pyeongchang is another thing. This trip, if we have not yet decided to bid, seems extremely presumptuous and wasteful.

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Our mayor returns from South Korea and in the afterglow of Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir and Canada’s impressive performance at the Games, he soberly states that Calgary needs to consider the facts and separate our emotions.

We have had ample time to consider the facts, which haven’t changed much since the exploration committee came back with its report. The Olympics are expensive and neither the city, nor the province or the country has a lot of spare cash kicking around right now. For months, we have heard from experts that call it a risky undertaking and recommend we stay away.

But still the city pledged more money, and still the city welcomed the IOC with open arms, and still officials travelled across the world to “think about it.”

Meanwhile, the brand new $109-million “paint-only-just-dry” Olympic stadium in Pyeongchang is to be demolished immediately because it is untenable for that community.

I’m sure the Olympics are coming to Calgary – and this is why:

Did you hear about Park City, Utah? Park City is actually right outside Salt Lake City and was planning a bid for the same games Calgary is considering in 2026. They would be worthy competition for Calgary.

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The area hosted the games in 2002, which means they have facilities available that are a good decade younger than ours and would need very little upgrading. And – a big thing – they have public sentiment on their side. Fraser Bullock, CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, told Gord Gillies in January that a public poll conducted in November saw 89 per cent of the public favoured bringing the games back.

READ MORE: Olympic visit gives Calgary mayor more comfort with bidding process as city considers 2026 games

LISTEN: Gord Gillies connects with Fraser Bullock, former COO and CFO of the 2002 games.

They would be our biggest competition. But Salt Lake City has decided to hold their bid for 2030.

That means If Calgary Bids – Calgary wins.

It would be a huge shocker and a waste of taxpayer money if after this much investment, we didn’t bid.

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So, I’m going to stop being so cynical and start looking forward to 2026. Because while I agree that hosting the Olympics is too expensive for us right now, nobody seems to be marking that fact.

And anyways, hosting the Olympics is going to be a time and a half.

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