Calgary’s Olympic funding puts potential bid on thin ice
Yes Calgary 2026 rallied its supporters at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport on Monday — with just over two weeks to go until the Olympic bid plebiscite.
Jason Ribeiro, organizer of Yes Calgary 2026, said the event was about discussing the vision for the Games. Even though nothing seems solid right now, he said to consider the time and effort people have lent to the cause of Olympic proportions.
“This is something from the very beginning we’ve had to fight for,” Ribeiro said. “We will continue fighting until the very end.”
If a committee votes to cancel the plebiscite on Tuesday, the final vote in council could come as early as the next meeting on Wednesday morning.
Ribeiro remains optimistic amid the uncertainty.
“I’m confident a good deal is still out there,” he said. “We’ve seen this with union negotiations, we’ve seen this with NAFTA negotiations. People working till the last minute.”
Good deals take time, he said, so he’s preaching patience.
“I think we should be unfazed. We should be holding true to our values and moving forward in the community,” Ribeiro said.
“Certainly this adds a little bit of drama to the experience but, nonetheless, we remain undeterred.”
Michelle Cameron-Coulter, an Olympian synchronized swimmer and mom with Yes Calgary 2026, thinks the Olympics would benefit the city where she was born and raised.
“I really want to get Calgarians to engage and let’s push it over the finish line to get that bid in,” she said.
“I think it would be an amazing thing for our city, to rejuvenate our economy and change the energy.”
The Games could also help to restore Olympic legacy projects from 1988 — something Cameron-Coulter said will cost more in the long run if the Calgary bid falls through. She wants to maintain momentum through the challenges and thinks the province needs to step it up.
“An investment now into what will turn out to be a much bigger benefit for our province is a big part of it,” Cameron-Coulter said.
“Unfortunately, the numbers are not all in right now but that should not be a reason for us to stop moving forward to the potential that we have.”
It’s shortsighted not to push through because negativity comes from fear, she added.
“When we don’t understand something all the way, that’s when that fear comes,” Cameron-Coulter said. “The ‘no’ part is coming from that.”
“We may lose this if we don’t get it together. Let’s make it happen.”
WATCH: Political commentator Janet Brown joins Global Calgary to discuss recent events surrounding a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.
Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas strongly supports halting the bid because there is “no viable funding agreement” in place, and without that key piece, the public won’t be informed for the plebiscite.
“Calgary’s Olympic bid process has been plagued with problems since its inception,” Farkas said in a statement. “City council failed to agree to a public vote until it was mandated by the provincial government. We have failed to provide citizens with adequate cost/benefit information.
“This, combined with a lack of genuine citizen consultation, no safeguards from other levels of government for budget overruns and the withholding of important economic information, means that it’s time to cut our losses. This crisis of confidence cannot continue. It’s time to get back to the business of running the city and delivering on services.”
Farkas said he feels like he’s receiving information from the media rather than the city.
“I’d like to know who’s hiding what,” he said. “We don’t need a three week party that will leave Calgarians with a thirty year debt hangover.”
Calgary councillors will be meeting with council’s Olympic committee for plebiscite recommendations on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, the federal government revealed that it would contribute up to $1.75 billion but only if the money is matched by the provincial and municipal governments in what’s called a 50-50 rule. It’s not clear whether this condition was evident from the start of negotiations. Regardless, the province isn’t budging on its $700 million commitment.
In a media scrum in Edmonton on Monday, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci reiterated his Sunday comments, adding that all levels of government are still talking and hope to see the Olympic bid go to plebiscite.
“The province isn’t in a position to put any more money in. We need to balance any potential Olympic funding with the many other priorities we have and that Albertans count on,” he said.
“$700 million is all we can do.”
There is a path forward for the bid, but it “relies heavily” on the federal government honouring its original promise, Ceci said.
“If the feds can commit $1.75 billion in 2018 dollars to this project and drop their 50-50 funding rule, then we have what we need and the bid can go ahead to plebiscite,” he said.
WATCH: Yes Calgary 2026 is standing strong – despite a potential funding gap that could end the Olympic bid before it begins. Lauren Pullen reports.
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