While the City of Calgary continues to deliberate whether it will bid to host the 2026 Olympics, a new poll suggests that with all the factors and hurdles under consideration, Calgarians ultimately support a bid.
But the question dividing respondents — who’s going to pay for it?
Calgarians, Albertans living outside the city, as well as Canadians as a whole were questioned as part of an Ipsos poll done on behalf of Global News.
The results of the exclusive poll, released on Tuesday, showed that 66 per cent of Calgarians surveyed believe the city would risk going into serious debt if it hosted the 2026 Games.
When it comes to using Calgarians’ tax dollars to fund a bid — which has a price tag of about $30 million — only half of Calgarians polled agree that’s where the money should come from.
The Games themselves would come with a hefty price tag of about $4.6 billion.
WATCH: Should Calgary host the Olympics? The results are in from an exclusive Ipsos poll commissioned by Global News poll. Tony Tighe sits down with a panel to talk about the outcome.
Half of Albertan participants supported the idea of using Alberta tax dollars if the provincial government pitched in on a bid, while 57 per cent were in favour of Calgary’s municipal government putting its tax dollars toward a bid.
Comparatively, half of Canadians outside of Calgary who took part in the poll were is on board with federal tax dollars going to help fund a bid.
An overwhelming majority of participants — 92 per cent — were in favour of using private funding from corporations to make up the bid cost.
“The biggest takeaway is that Canadians obviously want to have another Olympics,” Ipsos public affairs vice president Sean Simpson said. “But many people don’t want to pay for even the most basic component, which is putting the bid together.”
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt agreed the poll suggests “overwhelming support” for Calgary hosting another Olympics, but said the excitement stalls when the question of money comes up.
WATCH: Are Calgarians willing to pay for 2026 Olympics bid?
“That support disappears the moment that the issue of using taxpayer money to pay for them is introduced,” Bratt said. “It is fascinating that support drops from 90 per cent to 50 per cent in all jurisdictions.
“In short, citizens want to host the Olympics as long as someone else pays for it.”
Despite being divided on who should foot the bill, 84 per cent of respondents agreed hosting an Olympic Games would give Calgary’s economy a major boost. Eighty-three per cent believe Alberta’s economy would benefit and 75 per cent see Canada as a whole benefitting economically from hosting.
Eight in 10 Canadians surveyed also agreed that considering Calgary hosted the Games in 1988, the city is an “ideal choice” for 2026.
What about the non-financial risks?
As the questions move away from the money and to the potential risks, public concern appears to drop off slightly.
Only 40 per cent thought there was too much scandal and corruption surrounding the international competition for them to support a bid.
Even less, 36 per cent, feared the risks of a potential security incident or terrorist attack outweighed the benefits of hosting the Games.
All factors considered, 56 per cent said there are more benefits thank risks to hosting the 2026 Olympics.
“The uncertainty is, ‘What value will we derive from our initial investment?'” Simpson said.
“That’s the key question and that coincides with that feeling. You don’t want to invest money and get zero rate of return. What chance does Calgary think it has in mounting a bid?”
What about the question of a plebiscite?
The City of Calgary announced on Thursday it had secured federal and provincial funding for the establishment of a “bid corporation that will continue the development of hosting plans and a fully costed event budget that will inform a bid.”
That funding would come with strings attached from the provincial side, though, with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism saying a plebiscite would have to take place before the money is secured, which is something city administration has been stumped on for some time.
“Based on the poll results, the success of the plebiscite will depend on the question that is asked,” Bratt said.
“If it is just a question, ‘Do you support or oppose the idea of Calgary bidding to host the 2026 Olympic Winter Games?’ then the plebiscite will pass easily. If, however, the question changes to, ‘The municipal (Calgary) government using Calgarian taxpayers’ money to fund Calgary’s Olympic bid,’ then the outcome is in doubt.”
LISTEN BELOW: Robert Livingstone with Gamesbids.com speaks with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen about the implications of Calgary’s Olympics bid
Bratt said the plebiscite results could change even more from the polling data if real numbers are introduced.
“In other words, ‘Would you support putting $500 million (or $1 billion or $2 billion or $3 billion) of taxpayers’ money to fund the bid?’ Does support rise or fall depending upon the dollar amount?'”
Who would attend?
The poll suggested a high number of young people support the Olympics being held in Calgary, with 63 per cent of Canadian millennials asked saying they would strongly consider taking in an event. People under 35 were also the most supportive of tax dollars going to fund the Games.
The number of Albertans who said they would consider attending an event was even higher at 72 per cent. A little less than half of Canadians polled, 45 per cent, said they would strongly consider getting tickets to see some of the competition.
“Even if some are worried about scandal and terrorism and security, most still side with the belief that there are more benefits than disadvantages,” Simpson said. “These are obstacles to overcome but not game changers.
“We know what a modern Olympics looks like. Vancouver handled it very successfully; there’s no reason Calgary shouldn’t be able to do the same.”
This Ipsos poll was conducted between March 23-27, 2018 on behalf of Global News. A sample of 1,303 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online via the Ipsos I-Say panel and non-panel sources, including an over-sample of n = 400 Albertans. Quota sampling and weighting were employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe, both within Alberta and nationally. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled, and n +/-5.6 points for the sample of Albertans. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.