Calgary Herald - - EDITORIAL -

The path to host­ing an Olympic Games isn’t al­ways golden. At times, the road can seem a bit tar­nished, even treach­er­ous with twists, turns and un­ex­pected bumps.

Case in point? The re­cent de­bate re­gard­ing a po­ten­tial bid from Cal­gary to host the 2026 Win­ter Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games.

The con­fu­sion al­most re­sulted in rob­bing Cal­gar­i­ans of the chance to vote in a plebiscite Tues­day and de­cide whether they’d like to see the bid pro­ceed.

But de­spite any mis­steps that may have re­cently oc­curred, let’s hope this doesn’t lead to a missed op­por­tu­nity — the op­por­tu­nity to have a global spot­light shine on our city and to ig­nite a new eco­nomic spark.

Just look at the num­bers sur­round­ing the pro­posed, fis­cally re­spon­si­ble bid. The City of Cal­gary con­tri­bu­tion is slated to be $390 mil­lion, part of a pub­lic in­vest­ment of $2.875 bil­lion. Pri­vate fund­ing would amount to an­other $2.233 bil­lion.

Cal­gary 2026 bid ex­ec­u­tives es­ti­mate that would mean $4.4 bil­lion would flow into the lo­cal econ­omy, cre­at­ing 15,400 jobs. While some may be short-term jobs, it’s bet­ter than no-term, es­pe­cially for laid-off folks who’ve been look­ing for work for some time and for young peo­ple seek­ing their first em­ploy­ment.

If there are no Olympics, those bil­lions don’t ar­rive. It’s as sim­ple as that.

Some fi­nan­cial ex­perts note there’s no guar­an­tee about Games-re­lated longer-term growth.

It’s true that host­ing an Olympics doesn’t di­rectly solve the of­fice va­cancy prob­lem. How­ever, the Games would at­tract global at­ten­tion and bring Cal­gary to the fore­front of con­ver­sa­tions that can lead to at­tract­ing new busi­nesses.

Cast­ing an eye back to when Cal­gary hosted the Games in 1988 also pro­vides some in­sight.

Af­ter the ’88 Games, tourist num­bers grew, as did new ar­rivals.

Com­pa­nies re­lo­cated here: Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way moved its na­tional head­quar­ters to Cal­gary from Mon­treal; Shaw Com­mu­ni­ca­tions moved from Ed­mon­ton; and Sun­cor Inc. re­lo­cated from On­tario.

A steady stream of World Cup and other in­ter­na­tional sport­ing events be­gan oc­cur­ring in Cal­gary, as did global eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal fo­rums. And, de­spite Cal­gary’s rel­a­tively small pop­u­la­tion of 657,000 at the time, then-mayor Ralph Klein was in­vited to a Big City may­ors’ con­fer­ence in Venezuela.

Cal­gary was tak­ing its place on the world stage.

Now, we have the op­por­tu­nity to do so again. Host­ing an­other Olympics would breathe new life into old fa­cil­i­ties, pro­vide a needed field house, lead to in­creased recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple of all ages and re­sult in new so­cial hous­ing. Im­por­tantly, ci­ties that have hosted the Par­a­lympics also re­port the event leads to im­proved aware­ness and ac­cess for cit­i­zens fac­ing a va­ri­ety of phys­i­cal chal­lenges.

The road, of course, to host­ing the Par­a­lympics and Olympics in 2026 won’t al­ways be easy, but since when did Cal­gar­i­ans want an easy route?

We pride our­selves on our can-do at­ti­tude. There’s an in­de­fati­ga­ble spirit here.

With am­bi­tions as far reach­ing as the end­less prairie skies, the Cal­gary way has al­ways been this: Think big and reach high.

It’s an at­ti­tude that led to the sen­sa­tion of the Turner Val­ley oil­fields, the cre­ation of the Great­est Out­door Show on Earth and the suc­cess of the 1988 Win­ter Olympics in mod­ern times.

We live in a global so­ci­ety and a world-ranked city. Let’s make sure our city con­tin­ues to take its place on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

Let’s not let the world pass us by.

We say Yes.


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