Calgary city council to vote on killing bid for 2026 Winter Games

Referendum on the issue was schedule for Wednesday

A Calgary bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games appears virtually dead unless a financial rabbit is pulled out of a hat.

City council will vote Wednesday on motions to kill the bid and cancel a Nov. 13 plebiscite asking Calgarians if they want the games or not.

Coun. Evan Woolley, who chairs Calgary’s Olympic assessment committee, brought forth the motions Tuesday at committee and those motions were referred to council.

“We do not have acceptable agreements in place with the other orders of government,” Woolley said. “It’s going to be a difficult, difficult decision for council as a whole and for individual councillors.”

Advance voting for the plebiscite is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

The bid corporation Calgary 2026 estimated the cost of hosting the games at $5.2 billion. Calgary 2026 asked for a combined $3 billion contribution from the federal and provincial governments and the city.

The Canadian government committed $1.5 billion and the Alberta government $700 million. The feds expressed their contribution in “2026 dollars” at $1.75 billion, however.

The city has yet to state what its share would be, but when the mayor said Calgary shouldn’t pay more than the province, it appeared the three levels of government were not going to get to the $3-billion ask.

READ MORE: Calgary considers bid for 2026 Olympic Games

READ MORE: Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell tells Calgary to go for 2026 Olympics

Mayor Naheed Nenshi wasn’t ready to call Calgary’s bid for 2026 dead Tuesday.

“If you know me, you know I am a Canadian football fan and in the CFL you often get that last field goal in the very last second going through the uprights,” the mayor said. “I remain optimistic that something is possible here.

“What council has to do tomorrow is determine whether there’s enough there for Calgarians to vote on two weeks from today, or if in fact they feel that the clock has in fact run out without the field goal.”

The provincial government said it would not provide a penny more that $700 million, nor would it provide any financial guarantees against cost over-runs.

The federal government’s hosting policy for international sports events provides for up to 50 per cent of the public investment required.

The feds committed the $1.5 billion, but required the city and provincial governments combined to match that figure.

“The federal hosting policy is we will match dollar for dollar the contribution of the municipality and the province,” federal sports minister Kirsty Duncan said in Ottawa early Tuesday.

Woolley believes that city cannot travel further down the 2026 road without a financial agreement between the three orders of government.

“Right now, we have seven hundred million dollars committed from the provincial government with no indemnities or no guarantees on that money,” he pointed out.

“We have a proposal from the federal government that does not move beyond their 50 per cent and is in 2026 dollars, which does not add up to the money required to host the games.

“We had a number of positive conversations that signalled they would be willing to go beyond their 50 per cent.

“The gap is too large.”

Calgary was the host city of the 1988 Winter Olympics. The venues still used for international and domestic competition and training are the foundation of a second bid.

Calgary 2026 estimated $502 million would required to get those venues Olympic-ready again.

The bid corporation had built $1.1 billion in capital and operational contingency funds into its draft host plan.

Calgary 2026 chief executive officer Mary Moran predicted hosting the games again would bring $4.4 billion into the local economy.

The International Olympic Committee has committed $1.2 billion in cash and services to the 2026 host city.

— With files from Canadian Press reporter Terry Pedwell in Ottawa

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press


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