Former B.C. premier supports Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell and Calgary Chamber CEO Sandip Lalli discuss a potential 2026 Olympic bid.
Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell and Calgary Chamber CEO Sandip Lalli discuss a potential 2026 Olympic bid. Michael King/Global News

The man who spearheaded the Vancouver Olympics is, in no uncertain terms, supporting Calgary’s potential 2026 bid.

Gordon Campbell — B.C.’s premier when Vancouver and Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Games — spoke to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce Monday and seemed certain that bidding for the Olympics is the right move.

“2026 is not that far away but it sure will be a great time when you host the Olympics here,” Campbell said. He was B.C.’s premier from 2001 to 2011, from the bid phase to hosting the 2010 Games.

While speaking to Calgary’s business community, Campbell focused on the financial benefits that could possibly come with hosting the winter games.

“[The Olympics] generate all kinds of economic opportunities,” Campbell said. “Literally billions of dollars of investment that won’t come here if you don’t have the opportunity to host the Olympics. Billions.”

Campbell also addressed Calgarian skeptics who are worried that the city isn’t financially strong enough to shell out for an event like the Olympics.

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“People say it’s a tough time. Well, guess what? It was a tough time in 2001 and 2002 when we strove to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games,” Campbell said.“[The B.C. government] said bid for this. Let’s build the kind of economic activity that broadens our approach.”

The impetus to get the 2010 Games started with the B.C. government in the late 1990s. The province was the financial guarantor for those games.

While the cost of the 2010 Games in Vancouver and Whistler was roughly $4 billion, the B.C. government’s spending on a rail line to the airport and a convention centre that were completed in time for the games brought the total to $7.7 billion.

The 2010 report from the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) said the Games broke even with its operating budget. The operating revenue equaled the $1.9 billion in expenses to run the event, but that does not include venue construction or infrastructure upgrades.

While the B.C. government was the initial ringleader of bidding for 2010, the province of Alberta is not out front on 2026. Calgary 2026 is currently negotiating with the province, the feds and the city of Calgary on how much money each level of government would contribute to hosting the games.

Calgary 2026 estimated the cost of hosting the 2026 Winter Games at $5.2 billion and asked the city, province and federal governments to cover $3 billion of that. The remainder would be paid for via games revenues.

Since the bid corporation Calgary 2026 released a draft host plan Sept. 11, campaigns for and against bidding for those games have escalated on social media accompanied by several newspaper editorials.

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READ MORE: Calgary 2026 Olympic bid public engagement process starts Monday

Sandip Lalli, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has not taken a firm stance on whether or not to support a potential bid. Lalli said more information is needed before choosing a position.

“On Oct. 13, we’ll find out what the provincial government’s commitment will be,” said Lalli. “We’re diving deeper and learning more. We will take a position closer to the plebiscite.”

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Calgarians will go to the polls Nov. 13 in a non-binding plebiscite that will ask a simple question: are you for Calgary hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or against?

The IOC’s deadline to submit 2026 bids is January. The election of the successful host city will be held September, 2019.

— With files from Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press