An International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive told Calgary business leaders the financial risk of hosting the 2026 Winter Games is low, but members of the community still have many questions.
Christophe Dubi answered questions at a chamber of commerce event Tuesday about costs and what the IOC expects from a host city. Earlier this month, the IOC committed to contributing US$925 million (C$1.2 billion) to the host city of the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“The Games will present a great opportunity,” Dubi told Global News. “You bring the world at your door. You have the IOC contributing, obviously, financially to the the effort. You have the business community lining up to finance the Games. And it’s a local injection of money and work.
“And obviously in the end, for a great cause. What we do is display what Calgarians and Canada have to offer.”
Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Games. The city has yet to commit to a bid for 2026. A plebiscite on the issue will be held later this year.
A Calgary bid corporation, Calgary 2026, was established last month with former national team skier and real estate entrepreneur Scott Hutcheson as chair and hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser as vice chair.
Groups for and against a bid are forming. A spokesperson for the ‘No’ side says Olympic Games are the riskiest project any city can take on.
“We have some real questions about what being a host city means for Calgary, and we need some answers and time is running short with the plebiscite coming in November,” Erin Waite, a member of No Calgary Olympics, said. “We have no numbers in terms of the cost of the Olympics and so we’re very concerned for Calgarians.”
“I think the Olympics are a great thing and 2026 Olympics could be wonderful. I just don’t think we have the time or the money or the right priorities to have those Olympics in Calgary. I’d rather see them somewhere else.”
Calgary Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Sandip Lalli said not having numbers yet is adding stress.
“When are we, as the business community, going to be able to see what does this actually mean to taxpayers?”
A firm price tag for hosting the games has yet to be announced. Dubi asked Calgarians to be patient as those numbers are analyzed and said the process is on track.
“The bid is right where it should be. We’ve had a number of meetings together. Experts coming in various fields: transportation, security, finance, sport. And I can tell you, you are right where you should be.”
“Numbers and plans will be refined until then, and that’s a normal process,” Dubi explained.
Dubi said the project makes sense for Calgary, since it has existing Olympic infrastructure from the 1988 Games that remains in use 20 years later.
Canada Olympic Park, the Olympic Oval, Canmore Nordic Centre, Nakiska Ski Resort, Max Bell Arena and the Saddledome sprouted from the ground in the early 1980s, although the arrival of the NHL’s Flames also made the Saddledome a necessity.
“You see, you had the Games back in ’88. You have infrastructure, you’ve been using it. The legacy of ’88 is outstanding,” said Dubi.
A $220-million winter sport institute was constructed at Canada Olympic Park through the ’88 legacy foundation. The majority of winter high-performance athletes in Canada either train in Calgary or have come to the city for training camps and competition.
“What you designed in ’88 with great vision has been serving this community and by reloading and making the effort for 2026, you’re planning for the next 40 years.”
Besides Calgary, Stockholm, Sweden and Sapporo, Japan are seriously interested while Erzurum, Turkey; Graz, Austria and a joint bid from cities in Italy are also in play.
— With files from The Canadian Press