MLAs join­ing city of­fi­cials to ‘ob­serve’ 2018 Games

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - AN­NALISE KLING­BEIL

The City of Cal­gary is pay­ing for two MLAs to at­tend the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics in South Korea along­side three city staff, and po­ten­tially Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi, as part of ef­forts to eval­u­ate a po­ten­tial 2026 Olympic bid.

While Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley dubbed the trip a fact-find­ing mis­sion and said the prov­ince has made no de­ci­sions about sup­port­ing a Cal­gary bid, Nen­shi said hav­ing provin­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the up­com­ing Win­ter Games is good news for Cal­gary’s re­peat Olympic dreams.

Not­ley con­firmed Thurs­day af­ter­noon that deputy pre­mier Sarah Hoff­man and Min­is­ter of Cul­ture and Tourism Ri­cardo Mi­randa ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion from the City of Cal­gary to at­tend the open­ing cer­e­monies in South Korea.

“I would imag­ine that that’s a pretty strong sig­nal that if they want to ob­serve, then they’re will­ing to fund their costs of the bid com­mit­tee,” said Nen­shi, who hopes to also at­tend the sport­ing event in Fe­bru­ary.

In No­vem­ber, coun­cil voted 9-4 in favour of spend­ing an ad­di­tional $1 mil­lion — on top of the $5 mil­lion al­ready ded­i­cated — to con­tinue ex­plor­ing a Cal­gary bid for the 2026 Win­ter Games.

Coun­cil agreed to spend an­other $1 mil­lion on the ex­plo­ration ef­forts next year, if the fed­eral and provin­cial gov­ern­ments agree to help cover the cost of a bid, which is es­ti­mated to be around $30 mil­lion.

“We’ve made no de­ci­sion on that. We’re still in the fact-find­ing and the re­search stage right now,” Not­ley told re­porters in Ed­mon­ton on Thurs­day.

An end of Jan­uary dead­line has been set by coun­cil for the prov­ince and Ot­tawa to come on board and par­tic­i­pate in a bid com­mit­tee — just days be­fore the Feb. 9 to 25 Win­ter Games in South Korea.

Hoff­man also told re­porters no de­ci­sions have been made re­gard­ing sup­port­ing a Cal­gary bid.

“I look for­ward to … hav­ing an op­por­tu­nity to be part of the Cana­dian del­e­ga­tion and to spend some time with the folks from Cal­gary and see where that takes us,” she said.

Nen­shi, a long­time Olympic fan who paid his own way to the 2016 Sum­mer Games in Brazil, said he’s hope­ful he will be able to at­tend the 2018 Games, though this time around he would be work­ing not va­ca­tion­ing.

“If I’m ac­tu­ally there work­ing, I won’t be able to do what I like to do, which is hang out with the fam­i­lies of the ath­letes and hear their sto­ries and watch a lot of speed­skat­ing,” he said.

While Kyle Ri­p­ley, di­rec­tor of re­cre­ation for the city, was not avail­able for an in­ter­view Thurs­day, a city spokes­woman said in an email that a gen­eral man­ager, project spon­sor and project lead from the city are plan­ning to at­tend the PyeongChang Olympics along­side the two MLAs.

The city doesn’t yet have a price tag for the ex­pe­di­tion, but a high­level bud­get in­cluded as part of a re­cent re­port to coun­cil pegged a PyeongChang Ob­server Pro­gram, along­side in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, mar­ket­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and en­gage­ment, at $400,000.

“The ma­jor­ity of the bud­get for PyeongChang will be cov­ered by the city and a por­tion will be cov­ered by Can­more. There will be sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions pro­vided by the Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee and IOC re­gard­ing as­sis­tance with trans­porta­tion, cell­phone cover­age, se­cu­rity, med­i­cal cover­age, of­fice fa­cil­i­ties and ac­cess to knowl­edge­able staff and ac­cess to events,” city spokes­woman Carissa Vescio said in an email that noted Cal­gary was pay­ing for Hoff­man and Mi­randa to at­tend.

Vescio de­tailed sev­eral pur­poses of the trip, in­clud­ing forg­ing re­la­tion­ships with IOC staff, meet­ing with COC of­fi­cials, li­ais­ing with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, and ob­serv­ing the lo­gis­ti­cal de­tails and com­mit­ment Cal­gary would need to host the Games.

GAVIN YOUNG/FILES

Cal­gary may have to erect an­other Olympics caul­dron, like the one above for the 1988 Games at Olympic Park, if it de­cides to bid for the 2026 Win­ter Games and is suc­cess­ful in its bid.

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