Vote looms: Games bid on thin ice

We talked to coun­cil­lors on eve of big day:


Coun­cil­lors re­mained di­vided Sun­day about whether to con­tinue to ex­plore a bid for the 2026 Win­ter Olympics, one day be­fore a vote that could end the process.

The 15-mem­ber coun­cil is sched­uled to de­cide Mon­day whether to pro­ceed with an Olympic bid process, with just eight votes re­quired to end pur­suit of an­other Games.

Five coun­cil­lors reached Sun­day said it’s too early to pull the plug on a po­ten­tial Olympics bid.

But Coun. Jeromy Farkas said he’s in favour of “tak­ing the off-ramp out of 2026.”

“It’s largely be­cause of the way the process has been han­dled that I think we should be out for 2026,” he said. “Some­thing, though, that I just haven’t heard re­ally dis­cussed much is that at this time we have huge lever­age with the IOC. I think that they need us more than we need them, so while I’m lean­ing to sup­port the off-ramp for 2026, I think that we still have to keep an open mind for 2030. The op­por­tu­nity might be there to, say, ne­go­ti­ate a killer deal, in­cor­po­rate Cal­gar­i­ans and get the busi­ness com­mu­nity on board.”

Coun. Jeff Dav­i­son said it’s not the right time “to aban­don ship on what we’ve al­ready done.”

“We’ve heard from Cal­gar­i­ans that they want a voice on the mat­ter about the Olympics and I in­tend to give them one,” he said. “I think now’s the crit­i­cal time that BidCo should get to­gether, eval­u­ate the num­bers and present those num­bers to Cal­gar­i­ans so we can have a fact-based con­ver­sa­tion on whether or not the eco­nom­ics of this are go­ing to work for us.”

Coun. Ray Jones, who is also in favour of giv­ing res­i­dents a chance to weigh in, pre­dicted Sun­day a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil will opt to halt fur­ther work, given that coun­cil­lors Diane Col­ley-Urquhart and Ward Suther­land sig­nalled last week that they could switch their stance.

“I don’t think it should be left up to 15 mem­bers of coun­cil,” Jones said. “I just hope coun­cil thinks about it be­fore they vote. We’ve got to get to the pub­lic part of this.”

Mem­bers of a coun­cil com­mit­tee voted 9-1 last Tues­day in favour of the vote on whether to con­tinue pur­su­ing a po­ten­tial bid.

Coun. Druh Far­rell, who in­tro­duced the mo­tion, said fol­low­ing Tues­day’s vote that she had the im­pres­sion coun­cil­lors were chang­ing their minds on mov­ing ahead with the process.

“I’m not sure there is ma­jor­ity sup­port to go for­ward,” she said.

Col­ley-Urquhart and Suther­land, who had both pre­vi­ously voted in favour of ex­plor­ing a bid, sig­nalled last week they could now re­ject the process.

“Un­less there’s a lot of lob­by­ing and arm-twist­ing and leg-twist­ing that goes on in the next four or five days, I think this is dead,” Col­ley-Urquhart said Tues­day. Suther­land said in a so­cial me­dia post last week he would vote to dis­con­tinue the process.

Cal­gar­i­ans out­side the po­lit­i­cal sphere also weighed in last week. Dozens of cur­rent and re­tired Olympic ath­letes held a news con­fer­ence at Canada Olympic Park Fri­day, ask­ing coun­cil to con­tinue con­sid­er­ing a bid. The Cal­gary Cham­ber of Com­merce also urged coun­cil to al­low the Olympic bid cor­po­ra­tion to com­plete its work.

Coun. Ge­orge Cha­hal, the sole coun­cil­lor to vote against coun­cil mak­ing a de­ci­sion this week, said he wants the pub­lic to have their say first. He said a lot could hap­pen dur­ing the course of Mon­day’s de­bate, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial amend­ments.

“I be­lieve, so far, we haven’t com­mu­ni­cated well with the pub­lic on the costs and ben­e­fits of what an Olympics would do to the city, the pros and cons, and what would our city look like with­out the Olympics,” Cha­hal said Sun­day. “We have a lot of in­fras­truc­ture re­quire­ments in our fa­cil­i­ties that need to be up­graded, so we need to have a real dis­cus­sion on what it looks like.”

Coun. Shane Keat­ing said he’s not pre­pared to say whether he’s for or against.

“I’m pre­pared to say, let’s look into the pos­si­bil­i­ties and then make an in­formed, in­tel­li­gent opin­ion,” he said. “Any­one who’s, in my view, ready to make a de­ci­sion one way or the other to­day, with­out re­ally hav­ing ba­sic (in­for­ma­tion), isn’t in­ter­ested in whether it’s good, bad or ugly.”

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra echoed the view­point, say­ing “it’s way too soon” to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion.

“I think that walk­ing away from the Olympics right now would be a mis­take,” he said.

Carra said the mem­bers of coun­cil in favour of pro­ceed­ing with ex­plor­ing a bid are not say­ing yes to the Olympics, but “yes to find­ing out whether we can craft a good deal.

“And I would hope that we can main­tain a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors who are fo­cused on ex­plor­ing that,” he said.

Coun. Sean Chu said there are too many un­knowns.

“I was one of two coun­cil­lors right from Day 1 say­ing this is not the time and we shouldn’t even be think­ing about go­ing for­ward with the Olympics be­cause the cost is un­known,” he said.

Last week, Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi called the de­ci­sion to hold the vote “re­mark­ably short-sighted.”

He said it’s pre­ma­ture to end the process be­fore Cal­gar­i­ans weigh in and a full fi­nan­cial pic­ture emerges of po­ten­tial fund­ing from other lev­els of gov­ern­ment, the I.O.C. and the pri­vate sec­tor.

It’s largely be­cause of the way the process has been han­dled that I think we should be out for 2026.” Coun. Jeromy Farkas

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