Peter Watts: Bidding for 2026
On Monday, Calgary City Council will vote on a motion to proceed with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.
There have already been several million dollars invested in the idea. A number of municipal and provincial politicians went to South Korea to observe the most recent Olympic Games in February.
Provincial and federal funds have been promised to further support exploration of a bid, depending upon council’s decision. Should council decide to proceed, there will be a civic plebiscite to determine the public’s opinion on the idea of bidding for the event.
Let us all understand that this will not be a reenactment of 1988. There were just over 100 medal events on the 1988 calendar. That number now tops 300. There are sports that weren’t part of the ’88 Games that must now be accommodated on the agenda.
The good news is that there isn’t a sport on the Olympic program for which experienced officials and volunteers would need to be found. Virtually every event has been staged in this part of the world on many occasions. There is a decent facility legacy left over from 1988, although the increased size of the Games means that what was built for 1988 won’t be sufficient by itself.
That provides an opportunity for the whole province to be involved. Take arena requirements as an example. The current Olympic calendar includes men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s curling, short-track speed skating and figure skating. That’s too much for the Saddledome to accommodate, and that’s the only arena in the city at the moment. So, why wouldn’t a bid committee include Rogers Place in Edmonton for some of those events?
Listen below: CHQR’s Rob Breakenridge,and Olympic skier Ken Read each offer perspectives on Monday’s Calgary City Council vote on whether to bid for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
The Town of Canmore played host to biathlon and cross-country skiing events 30 years ago. The various freestyle disciplines weren’t part of the Olympic program in 1988. But there are some new facilities being developed in Red Deer for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Why couldn’t they be included in 2026?
The best lesson learned from 1988 was the importance of leaving behind a legacy. A lot of the athletes who have been developed in the last 30 years owe their passion for sport to what was left behind from those Games. Check the list of athletes who medalled in South Korea. You’ll find a lot of them trained in Calgary and in the Bow River corridor, even if they came from other parts of Canada.
Yes, there are legitimate concerns about costs, and security and politics. There wasn’t unanimous support in 1988 and there won’t be this time. But to be worthy of hosting a Games, our leaders have to look at what they want to see as benefits for the people of this province and this country after the Games are over. That’s going to require leaders to eliminate emotion from the decision.
It promises to be an interesting Monday at city hall.
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