An artist’s rendering of a refurbished McMahon Stadium in Calgary is seen in this handout image. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation)

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

Scott Hutcheson carries a volunteer medal from the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary with him these days.

His parents, Bob and Jane, relocated from Ontario for a month to donate their time at the Nakiska alpine ski venue during those games.

Bob recently sent the medal to his son, who hopes Calgarians feel its value as much as he does when they vote Tuesday in a plebiscite on whether or not they want the city to bid on the 2026 Winter Games.

“That’s what it’s about,” Hutcheson said Monday. “Giving your spirit, giving your all to a community. That’s what he did.”

The board chair of the bid corporation Calgary 2026 feels the plebiscite will be a close race between those who want to host another Winter Games eight years from now, and those who don’t.

“I think it’s a jump ball,” Hutcheson said. “Depends who votes, depends who gets out.”

READ MORE: The cost of Calgary hosting the 2026 Winter Games

The result may be non-binding on a Calgary city council that has the final say on a bid, but it will heavily influence its decision.

“Vote, regardless of where you stand,” Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said. ”Let’s make sure there’s a really high voter turnout so there’s an unambiguous decision on this.

“I hope people vote ‘yes’. I think there are many, many great reasons to keep this process going and to not let this opportunity pass us by.”

The cauldron atop the Calgary Tower began igniting last week at 8:26 p.m. for 20 minutes 26 seconds. The tower is a symbol of the ‘88 Olympics, as the relay torch was a replica of it.

The tower is an asset in Hutcheson’s commercial real estate company, but the former national alpine team skier says he’s not using it to ignite ‘88 nostalgia in Calgarians to favour another bid.

The pro-bid Calgary Hotel Association is sponsoring the lighting of the tower in the run-up to the plebiscite, as well as cauldrons at WinSport and the Olympic Oval, he said.

Calgary 2026’s mandate is to “promote a responsible bid.”

It became easier to do that, Hutcheson said, after the proposed cost-sharing agreement between the three orders of government became public less than two weeks ago.

“The bid is understood. That momentum is exciting, but it’s late,” he acknowledged. “If it were done three months ago, it would have left way more time to talk about what this means from an investment standpoint.”

In an estimated $5.1 billion total price tag, the federal government has committed $1.45 billion and the province $700 million.

The city’s share would be $390 million. Hutcheson wants Calgarians to see it as a small investment for a big return.

“I never expected this small an investment to work from our city at $390 million,” Hutcheson said. “I never expected they’d put that little an amount in and we’d be able to get the federal government and the province both in for a remarkable number that works. This deal to me is way better than what I would have pencilled in months ago.

“I respect that not everybody is going to want to vote ‘yes.’ But I would ask those that vote ‘no’ to make sure they have another community project in their mind that will make a difference. ‘No’ doesn’t build a community.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Leaders of Tomorrow kicks off Jan. 16

Nominations accepted for youth recognition until Feb. 22

Team improves access to addiction, mental health supports

Service provides expanded on-call consultation

Hang up on the phone fraudsters

If the phone call seems kind of crazy…

Pinpointing innovations

How precision spraying system helps Kings Lake Hutterite Colony save time, products and water

County gravel pit requires wetland solution

County of Wetaskiwin hears report about wetlands at Hilgartner pit

VIDEO: Trudeau insists Iran respect families’ wishes when it comes to burials

All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were killed

Energy companies owe more than double the tax to Alberta municipalities

Survey says communities are owed $173 million — up 114% since last spring

No gondola from Banff to Mount Norquay, feds say

Parks Canada dismisses proposal for gondola, Grizzly Pavilion and boardwalks

U.S. officials confirm first case of Wuhan coronavirus near Seattle

The U.S. is the fifth country to report seeing the illness

Nine times lucky? Alberta’s Northern Cree takes another shot at Grammy gold

The group originates from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in northern Alberta

Tax revolt? Unpaid taxes from energy companies to Alberta towns more than double

The association says they are owed a total of $173 million

New post-secondary funding model in Alberta tied to performance measures

By 2022, up to 40 per cent of post-secondary funding could be linked to performance

Alberta bulldog breeder ordered to refund B.C. buyer over puppy’s behaviour

Tribunal ruled a verbal agreement to send a new dog superseded the written contract

Most Read