2026 Olympic security overrun coverage still in question 1 week ahead of plebiscite

Olympic rings are covered with fresh snow at the Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. The Associated Press

The Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation (BidCo) says it expects to have a signed guarantee by January that the federal government will foot the bill for any security cost should Alberta’s largest city host the 2026 Olympics.

In the updated Olympic host draft plan signed last week by the provincial and federal governments, the revised security budget was pegged at $495 million.

According to the 2026 Bid Corporation (BidCo), 20 agencies including the RCMP’s national and Alberta headquarters, Calgary Police Service and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency are responsible for the security of the Games.

During a meeting of the Olympic assessment committee on Tuesday, Calgary 2026 consultant Mary Conibear said the BidCo has been told there will be a guarantee for “a safe and peaceful celebration.”

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“We have been assured that the minister of public safety would sign that guarantee and that would encompass how they would deal with the financial arrangements as well,” Conibear said.

“It’s been approved to be signed by the minister of public safety. It’s required to submit for the bid and we’ll have it.”

Conibear said the BidCo doesn’t have any signed guarantees from any parties yet, saying the security guarantees aren’t due until January.

“None of the parties have actually submitted their signed guarantees,” she said. “We’ve been working on them to make sure that we know they will be signed because we want to know if there’s a gap. There’s no gap.

“We have somebody’s word.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday the federal government should cover any security cost overages.

“The federal government has given remarkably mixed messages on this question and it would be helpful for me if they could get on the same page,” he said.

“I believe it’s the federal government [who should be responsible]. They were in Vancouver, they were in Toronto and we’ll clear that up with them.”

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When asked on Tuesday whether the federal government would specifically cover extra security costs should they crop up, Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan would only say the feds would “provide all the guarantees.”

“The federal government will provide the guarantees for the Olympics and Paralympic Games,” she said.

Watch from Nov. 5: On the eve of the advanced polls there are some Olympic-sized questions about who is on the hook to pay for potential security cost overruns. Lauren Pullen reports.

Click to play video: 'Who will pay if Calgary 2026 security costs skyrocket?'
Who will pay if Calgary 2026 security costs skyrocket?

The Government of Alberta announced last month it would contribute $700 million to the Games, a number that didn’t change when the updated host plan was drafted. And the provincial funding for hosting the Games is contingent on a “yes” result from the Calgary Olympic plebiscite.

In a statement on Monday, a spokesperson for the Alberta government said “the minister of finance made it very clear that the Government of Alberta would commit a maximum of $700 million.

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“Additionally, the Government of Alberta has stated in writing, to both the mayor of Calgary and the federal minister of sport, that we will not be able to provide any additional funds that may be required, including those to cover revenue shortfalls of cost overruns.”

Nenshi said Tuesday that none of the elements in question “get bought or spent until after we win a bid and that’s still a year away.”

“There is a lot of time to sort out these issues and as I’ve said many times, there is a lot of contingency already in that budget,” he said.

“So what we’re talking about is, what would happen if we blew through all the insurance policy and a billion dollars in contingency, then what would happen? The possibility of that happening is pretty, pretty remote.”

Robert Livingstone, a sport journalist for who specializes in Olympic bids, said it’s unlikely the bill would be sent to the city if security costs go over.

“Typically, the IOC looks to the federal or national governments of any bid to coordinate the security and to look after the funding of it,” he said.

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He added the host city contract stipulates the federal government should work with the municipal government of the host city to “provide whatever services are necessary and to plan the finances.”

“Whether planning the finances means also budgeting for overruns, that’s a grey area,” Livingstone said. “I guess there has to be some decision making between the three levels of government to decide, ultimately, who deals with that.”

He said in previous major sporting events in Canada — Vancouver 2010 Games and the 2015 Pan American Games held in Toronto — it was primarily the federal government that took care of those costs.

Livingstone added that security is an unknown, and with eight years left until the Olympics would take place, it’s hard for officials to plan too far ahead.

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