Major Calgary Olympic bid moments leading up to the plebiscite
It’s been an Olympic-sized saga to get to here, but Calgarians get to have their say on Tuesday on whether they want their city to host the 2026 Winter Games.
For those who have been following closely, it’s no secret it’s been a wild ride. But for those who are unaware of what’s been happening, here’s a look at how things have unfolded since last November.
November 20, 2017
The Olympic dream was hanging in the balance after officials said another $2 million was needed to keep exploring the bid. Without it, city administration said there was no point in moving forward.
By a vote of 9-4, the Olympic dream lived on.
Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) come to Calgary to meet with city officials tasked with looking into a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
During the tour, IOC members visited the city’s legacy winter sports facilities from the 1988 Games and heard about the vision for a possible bid, along with event planning, transportation and security plans.
Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) spokesperson Kyle Ripley spoke before council at the end of the month, weighing in on when the city could expect funding commitments from the provincial and federal governments.
“We have been advised by both governments that the [funding] requests are being treated with a sense of urgency and we are optimistic that positive results will be achieved from both in February,” he told council on Jan. 29.
The BidCo blunder — the City of Calgary accidentally released an inaccurate document saying a funding agreement was reached between the three levels of government to form a Bid Corporation. But that wasn’t the case.
The city quickly apologized for the error and retracted the information that a deal had been made.
A short time later, a deal was reached to fund a Bid Corporation.
But not long after, the bid was in jeopardy again.
Council voted again on March 20 on whether it should pull the plug. By a vote of 9-6, the Olympic dream lived another day.
Another do-or-die vote hit council chambers on April 16.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s a bit in the ditch,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said during a break in the meeting. “The question is: is it worth pulling it out or not? And I think it is.”
The majority of council agreed, voting 9-6 to keep the bid process going.
Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley was named the chair of council’s Olympic Assessment Committee. Peter Demong was named vice-chair.
The Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation revealed the bid budget at $5.2 billion on Sept. 11. It outlined event venues, locations, cost estimates for upgrades and the budget for operations during the Games.
Calgary 2026 said the required public investment from taxpayers — the city, province and country — would be about $3 billion. Note: as of Nov. 13, that number was updated to $2.87 billion.
The same night of the budget reveal, council debated the fate of the Olympic bid again.
After hours of discussion, including extended time behind closed doors, councillors voted 12-3 to continue to a plebiscite vote. Many councillors said their vote didn’t mean a yes for the games, but a yes for giving Calgarians an opportunity to have their say.
October was the month for money, at least in terms of funding commitments for the Olympics.
The provincial government pledged $700 million with the stipulation that there has to be a yes vote in the plebiscite or there would be no cash.
Weeks later, the federal government confirmed it would cover half the taxpayer tab, but with a catch that the province and city must match its contribution dollar for dollar. That didn’t sit well with city council or the mayor.
After the funding announcements, an emergency Olympic Assessment Committee meeting was called for Oct. 30 to figure out what the city would do next.
Woolley recommended the city stop the bid process for good.
“I think the clock has run out,” Woolley told the committee. “I think it’s time to move on.”
Instead of accepting Woolley’s recommendation, the committee deferred the matter to city council. Ten votes were needed — a super majority — to pull the plug.
Council held a meeting on Oct. 31 and debated for roughly seven hours.
The final vote is 8-7 to end the bid process. Even though a majority voted for the Olympic dream to be over, it wasn’t enough to pass the recommendation, so Calgarians get the chance to cast their vote on Nov.13.
With files from Aurelio Perri, the Canadian Press, Heide Pearson, Kaylen Small, John Himpe, and Blake Lough
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