While the City of Calgary has yet to begin what it describes as “robust public engagement” on the possibility of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the town of Canmore is set to begin a second round of gathering public input as it draws nearer to making a decision on whether it wants to be part of a prospective bid.
“We started a first phase of public engagement through the month of March, and that involved a survey and an open house to gauge citizens’ desires for potential benefits and legacies coming out of the games,” said Canmore chief administrative officer Lisa de Soto.
Some of the concerns expressed through the first round of public consultation focussed on issues like transportation and traffic congestion, affordability of housing, environmental impacts and the possibility that Canmore might have “no say” in what happens to it as the process goes on.
However, residents do see some potential opportunities, such as legacy projects like affordable housing, sports facilities and an enhanced transportation system.
“I would say the bulk of residents are in the middle and they see some positive legacies that could come from the games if [there was] certainty in costs and crowd and transportation management.”
A series of 13 guiding principles for how council will conduct itself through the games process also came from the consultations. Among those principles is a mission to ensure the town is a recognized partner in the Olympic process, a commitment to transparency and a promise to minimize the town’s financial exposure.
“We’re taking those set of principles back out to the public for review and input through another survey and stakeholder meeting sessions,” de Soto said. “We’ll be presenting a final set of guiding principles for council’s consideration in May.”
A commitment to developing a plan for public consultation is one of six recommendations Calgary city council is being asked to approve as it debates a bid to host the Games this week.
It’s also being asked to approve a structure for an Olympic bid corporation (bidco) which would allocate 19 board of directors seats to the parties expected to be involved in a potential bid. This includes the city, the province, the federal government and the Canadian Olympic Committee each getting three seats, while Canmore and the Canadian Paralympic Committee would get one seat each.
“We haven’t had any discussions with the City of Calgary about the bidco structure,” de Soto said. “We do believe it’s important that a bid corporation get up and running. And certainly, a bid corporation — if we participated in one — that doesn’t necessarily mean there would be an approval to bid.
“We have asked to be a full member and participant in that bid structure. That bid structure has not been proposed to the town of Canmore.”
De Soto said one comment which has been voiced loud and clear by Canmore residents is that there hasn’t been enough information about the impacts to the town, the costs to the town, and what would be required of the community to support the delivery of the games.
“Those are still being determined, and that’s why it’s very important that the bid corporation get up and running so that those questions could be answered.”