Following a close vote, the potential for a Calgary Olympic Winter Games bid is still alive.
In a marathon meeting that didn’t wrap until after 10 p.m. Tuesday, councillors decided to continue the bid process in an 8 – 6 vote.
Councillors Davison, Keating, Chalal, Sutherland, Carra, Colley-Urquart, Jones and Nenshi voted in favour.
Councillors Chu, Magliocca, Gondek, Demong, Farrell and Farkas voted against.
Councillor Evan Woolley was absent.
Despite voting in favour of proceeding with the bid process, many councillors expressed concerns over the fact that the province and the federal government still haven’t confirmed funding commitments.
However, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday evening he was “extraordinarily confident” that confirmation would be coming soon. During the urgent business meeting, he said he received “late breaking news” concerning that funding, but could not disclose the information publicly.
“We’ve has lots of conversations as you can imagine with the feds and the province on this and I know there has been a lot of crossing of T’s and dotting of I’s on what the agreement would look like,” Mayor Nenshi said following the vote.
“But I think that with council’s decision to move forward [Tuesday], with that kind of commitment I think that will probably get rid of any remaining barriers with the other governments. But of course it’s their decision.”
The city posted documents on its website Friday stating both levels of government were on board to contribute money but walked that back a day later, saying no confirmation was received and those reports were posted in error.
The cost of a 2026 bid is estimated to be $30 million. The retracted reports stated the feds would chip in $10.5 million and the province $10 million before those document were removed from the city’s website.
The International Olympic Committee will invite cities to bid for 2026 in October with the deadline to do so by January. The winning city will be announced in September, 2019.
Calgary was the host city of the 1988 Winter Games.
Council voted in November to spend up to $2 million more on continued exploration of a bid. But only $1 million was released pending an answer from the federal and provincial governments.
The city was looking for a three-way split between the three levels of government on the cost of the bid.
The $3.5 million approved in principle Tuesday would bring Calgary’s spending on a bid to $9.5 million and thus fulfil its one-third financial commitment, Nenshi said.
Also approved in principle Tuesday was administration returning to council April 10 to discuss a public engagement plan.
City council will resume discussion on the Olympics Wednesday morning at a strategic meeting of council. They are expected to debate whether Calgarians’ desire to host the 2026 Winter Games should be polled via a plebiscite.
Nenshi said he wasn’t opposed to a plebiscite, but “somebody’s got to pay for it. It’s two million bucks and it’s not going to come out of the existing budget, so you’ve got to find the money.
“We need robust public engagement. We really need talk to people and get an idea of what they’re thinking. I think there are other ways to get engagement.”
— With files from Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press