Could Calgary hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics burden Lethbridge taxpayers? That was the question one Canadian economist set out to answer on Thursday during a lunchtime discussion hosted by the Southern Alberta Council on Public affairs.
“Everybody in the province will pay for the Olympics,” said Tom Sindlinger, Canadian economist and speaker at the SACPA session. “Everybody in Calgary will pay about $5,000 each for the Olympics and everybody in Lethbridge will pay $1,000 for the Calgary Olympics.”
Sindlinger, an economist with a focus in marketing of natural resources and governance, took to the microphone at the Royal Canadian Legion to present his thoughts on both the positive and negative outcomes the province could see from hosting the Games.
While he agrees that the 1988 Olympics hosted by Calgary were an overall success, he went on to say total cost of the games was less than $1 billion 20 years ago. New figures suggest the 2026 Games could top more than $8 billion.
Sindlinger also said the short-term economic boost hosting these Games would generate across the province is obvious but short lived, and the hefty debt left behind is something Albertan taxpayers could be paying off for many years to come.
“You could get 332 schools in Calgary for that amount of money,” Sindlinger said. “We don’t have that kind of money. We would be taking too much money that we don’t have for something we do not need.”
A board member from SACPA who was in the audience also reluctantly agreed with Sindlinger, despite his love for sports.
“I’m an Olympic fan, but when we can’t put drinking water in Aboriginal communities, and when we can’t always afford proper education, can we really afford an expensive, two-week bash?” Terry Shillington asked.
“I say that sadly because I’m a huge sports and Olympic fan, but we have to be realistic about what we can afford.”
With a heavy debate surrounding the idea of whether the Games could create lasting benefits for not only Calgary but the entire province, the City of Calgary will be asking for public input on Nov. 13 by hosting a plebiscite. Community members will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the impending bid to be a host city for the upcoming 2026 Winter Olympics.