A rally planned for today in favour of a Calgary bid for the 2026 Olympics will feature some familiar faces from the last time the city held the Games.
British ski-jumper Michael Edwards — better known as Eddie the Eagle — and 1988 mascots Hidy and Howdy are to be at a downtown convention centre for the event.
Canadian Olympians expected to attend include gold-medal sprinter Donovan Bailey and multi-medal-winning hockey player Cassie Campbell-Pascall.
Ice dancing duo Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won gold at this year’s Winter Olympics, are to make an appearance by video.
The rally comes a week before a plebiscite on whether Calgary should bid for the 2026 Games.
READ MORE: Bid details rolled out for Calgary 2026
A three-member grassroots group with no advertising money has been trying to push its anti-bid message without the same star power.
“Our group ‘No Calgary Olympics’ has always been focused on asking good questions and wanting Calgarians to have a full conversation about whether hosting the Olympics is the right thing for Calgary now,” said spokeswoman Erin Waite.
The group’s concerns include the cost of playing host, the transparency and ethics of the International Olympic Committee and what it sees as shortcomings in the bid process.
Opposing an Olympic bid isn’t a slight against Calgary, Waite said.
“We’re not doubters about Calgary’s initiative or capacity or enthusiasm for taking on big projects,” she said. ”It’s a matter of if it’s the right project now and what won’t we be able to do because we’re choosing the Olympics?”
She pointed to Calgary’s new $245-million Central Library, which opened to much fanfare last week.
“If that were on the books today, we would be choosing between the Olympics and doing a wonderful building like our new library that’s accessible to everybody.”
Last week, the bid seemed all but dead as the federal, provincial and municipal governments wrangled over cost-sharing. But they reached a deal late Tuesday and the bid survived a city council vote on Wednesday.
The bid has an estimated price tag of $5.1 billion. The province has said it would kick in $700 million of that and Ottawa would cover $1.4 billion. The city was asked to contribute $390 million, which includes $20 million for a $200-million insurance policy against cost overruns.
The remainder would be expected to come from ticket sales and other revenues.
Mary Moran, CEO of bid corporation Calgary 2026, has said the Olympics would mean a $4.4-billion investment coming into the city.
University of Alberta professor Stacy Lorenz, who studies the sociology and history of sports, questioned the rosy economic benefit forecasts.
It’s not surprising bid boosters are tugging at heartstrings by invoking past Olympic glory, he said.
“They are going to have to make an argument for civic pride and national identity, because if you look hard at the economics of it, that is not going to convince people to support the bid,” he said.
“Ultimately, people are going to have to decide if the positive feelings of all of that are worth the economic investment.”
The Canadian Press