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Eddie the Eagle returns to Calgary to support 2026 Olympic bid

WATCH: Eddie the Eagle was one of the most famous athletes at the 1988 Calgary Olympics and now he's lending his support to the potential 2026 Olympic bid. Carolyn Kury de Castillo was at the airport when he arrived.

With the help from an Olympic star, Yes Calgary 2026 is ramping up efforts before the Nov. 13 plebiscite.

As ski jumper Eddie the Eagle — aka Michael Edwards — deplaned at the Calgary International Airport on Sunday, a rally was in full swing to welcome one of the most famous athletes from the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

“I think Calgarians in 1988 were so proud to host the Olympic Games and it was such a special Olympics,” Edwards said. “I am very biased: it was my dream to get there… It was such a special Olympics and I think they can do even better still and host another one.”

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If Calgary lands the bid, ski jumping would be held at the facilities used for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in Whistler, B.C.

Edwards advocates for using what you have.

“Why build more ski jumps when you’ve already got one?” Edwards asked. “The most important thing is having the Olympics and doing well with it. I think it will bring a lot of excitement to Calgary, and it will put Calgary back on the map again and hopefully it will be even bigger and better than 1988.”

Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal agrees.

“Whistler has the infrastructure in place and this Olympic Games are showing Canadians and the world how we can do an Olympics differently, how we can use our existing assets not just in Calgary but across Canada,” he said. “I think it’s great that we are working with Whistler and Whistler will have an opportunity to participate in these Games and it’ll be good for their economy as well.”

He’s hopeful Calgarians will be well-informed about cost overruns and security measures before the plebiscite.

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“We have done a really good job through this process with working with the other orders of government and I’m confident that the analysis we have done will mitigate those concerns,” Chahal said.

“We have a tremendous opportunity as a city and we need to get the information out there so Calgarians can make an informed decision,” he added.

Eddie the Eagle (in black jacket) arrived in Calgary to throw his support behind the 2026 Olympic bid.
Eddie the Eagle (in black jacket) arrived in Calgary to throw his support behind the 2026 Olympic bid. Global News

An eleventh-hour funding proposal with a smaller bid budget was released on Oct. 30. Originally, the bid required $3 billion in public funds but was reduced to $2.875 billion.

Advanced polls for the plebiscite start Tuesday — but there are still unanswered questions, like who would be on the hook for cost overruns. On Nov. 2, Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of sport, said the federal government would not be responsible for cost overruns.

Yes Calgary 2026 said Public Safety Canada will pick up the tab on any potential cost overruns.

Jason Ribeiro with the pro-Olympic group said it’s about building on the ’88 legacy.

“We have to define these Games the Calgary way and I don’t think that is nostalgia,” he said. “I think that’s standing on the shoulders of what has been so effective before as other Olympics have and defining a path forward in the community to make sure that this is a truly unique Games.”

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Erin Waite with No Calgary Olympics is concerned about gaps in the plan and the lack of publicly available information.

“The nostalgia piece is something that people are enjoying to reflect on 1988 and the fact that that was a very successful Olympics, but everybody knows 2026 is a very different situation than 1988,” she said. “We know that this is an Olympic bid that just puts too much risk on Calgarians.”

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“[People] have to look at the financial situation in Calgary today, and if they look at the risk to our debt levels and the pending property tax increases and the upcoming austerity budget where our basic services are going to need to be cut, they know that we simply cannot afford this, and this isn’t the right project for Calgary now,” Waite added.

READ MORE: Former Olympic CEO urging confidence in Calgary bid despite cost concern

Olympians Donovan Bailey and Cassie Campbell will join Edwards for a Calgary 2026 rally on Monday at the Telus Convention Centre.

– With files from Carolyn Kury de Castillo

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