Have your say: Should Calgary host the 2026 Olympics? | CBC Sports

Have your say: Should Calgary host the 2026 Olympics? | CBC Sports

When Canada has hosted an Olympic Games in the past, it has been portrayed as an event the entire country can feel proud about hosting.

The proposed bid by Calgary to host the Winter Games in 2026 is no different. Yes, the Games would physically be contested in Calgary, but it is something that the entire country could celebrate.

On Nov. 13, Calgarians will have a chance to decide if they think hosting the Olympics is a good idea. But we thought it would be a good idea to give the whole country an (unofficial) say.

Here are some facts to help familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of each side, and then you can vote in our poll at the bottom of the story asking whether you think Calgary should host the 2026 Olympics.

Let the real campaign begin

After last week’s contentious city council meeting that pushed Calgary’s potential Olympic bid to the brink, it’s time to vote.

The city will hold a non-binding plebiscite (basically another name for a referendum) on Nov. 13, and the question for Calgarians will be simple: Are you for or are you against Calgary hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?

Residents will have two choices: “I am for Calgary hosting” or “I am against Calgary hosting.”

The vote is technically nonbinding, but will undoubtedly guide what happens next. And if the city council vote is any indication, it will be close.

Watch a quick explainer on the Calgary plebiscite:

Some things to consider

Do we know enough about how much it would cost?

The process of bidding for an Olympics is usually an opaque one. Taxpayers who will actually pay the bill for the Games are usually told very little, only to be left with a massive bill after the party leaves town. Details about the Games are hashed out by unknown sportocrats in plush European hotels.

By this standard, Calgary’s potential bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics has been quite transparent. Maybe a little too transparent.

In terms of public money needed, organizers have pegged the figure at nearly $3 billion. The breakdown would be nearly $1.5 billion from Ottawa. Calgary taxpayers are being asked to pitch in $370 million, while the province of Alberta would kick in $700 million.

Can these numbers be trusted?

These numbers are part of a proposed budget that has been put together more than eight years ahead of the Olympics. Even on the floor of Calgary council, there was widespread confusion about how these figures were arrived at and what exactly was covered.

For example, the budget was trimmed by $150 million after the RCMP found efficiencies in its initial security plan. Remember, it was RCMP officials, among others, that grossly underestimated the security costs associated with the Vancouver Olympics. The security budget is now pegged at $610 million. In Vancouver, the final bill came in at $900 million.

At the same time, bid supporters have said that the city would see a healthy return on any investment — and then some.

On the Calgary 2026 website, readers are told: “The City of Calgary would need to invest $390 million and for every dollar Calgary invests, it would get $10 in return.”

The ‘No Calgary Olympics’ side asks citizens to consider how this money could be better spent. The group makes a number of suggestions, which include public housing and environmental protection.

What are we getting?

A major selling point of Olympic bids is usually the windfall of infrastructure that accompanies any winning bid.

It was initially hoped that a rail link to the airport, an expanded highway and a much-needed new NHL-size arena would be central to the Calgary bid. 

But in a effort to make this bid financially prudent, many of these infrastructure enticements are now off the table.

The IOC actually has encouraged potential bidders to focus on refurbishing and rehabbing existing venues in an effort to curtail costs. There are no plans for an NHL-size arena or a rail link to the airport. Instead, the plan calls for 11 existing venues to be refurbished and only two new venues to be built.

Is it worth it?

If you love the thrill of the Olympic Games and take great national pride in success and medals, then an Olympic bid is an easy yes — no matter what part of the country you live in. If you think it’s important to have a hub of world-class facilities for our elite athletes in Calgary, then it’s an easy yes.

From the Calgary 2026 website: “This is not a nostalgia exercise. We believe that it’s a fundamental privilege to ask big questions about the future of our city. To imagine what’s possible and to consider how, by hosting the 2026 Games, we can work together to realize many of our current community needs and priorities.”

Others see it quite differently. Groups such as ‘No Olympics Calgary’ have consistently painted this as a project Calgary doesn’t need.

From its website: “There are many reasons to be concerned about being a host city. And these concerns are distinct from whether a person supports the Olympics and sport. The IOC has structured a bid process and then a host city relationship that puts undue risk on that host city. There is a reason that every Olympics has had cost overruns. Finally, for Calgary in 2018, it’s not clear that hosting the IOC for three weeks in 2026 is the right goal at the right time.”

Time for you to have your say. Vote in the poll below: Should Calgary host the 2026 Olympics?

Credit: Have your say: Should Calgary host the 2026 Olympics? | CBC Sports

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