Cal­gary city coun­cil votes to con­tinue work on pos­si­ble 2026 Olympic bid

Kingston Whig-Standard - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

Cal­gary has pulled back from killing a bid for the 2026 Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games.

City coun­cil was steer­ing to­wards an off-ramp last week, but changed course and voted 9-6 in favour of con­tin­ued work on a po­ten­tial bid Mon­day.

“I’m re­ally happy that coun­cil­lors ... re­ally spent a ton of time over the week­end con­sid­er­ing their po­si­tion, an­a­lyz­ing them­selves, ask­ing them­selves ques­tions about whether they were do­ing the right thing or not,” Cal­gary mayor Na­heed Nen­shi said.

“I was re­ally en­cour­ag­ing my coun­cil col­leagues to think about the big pic­ture, about what we’d be giv­ing up if we stop now.”

The city will con­tinue es­tab­lish­ing a bid cor­po­ra­tion, de­vel­op­ing a pub­lic en­gage­ment cam­paign and plan­ning a plebiscite for later this year.

The pro­posed makeup of the bid cor­po­ra­tion’s board of di­rec­tors in­cludes rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Cal­gary and Can­more, Alta., the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments, the Cana­dian Olympic and Par­a­lympic com­mit­tees and Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

Nen­shi didn’t want the city to bail on a bid be­fore the fi­nan­cial pic­ture be­comes clear or be­fore Cal­gar­i­ans have a chance to say what they think.

But some coun­cil­lors were be­com­ing un­com­fort­able with what they felt was a lack of clear in­for­ma­tion from city ad­min­is­tra­tion. A vote on a slate of mo­tions keep­ing a bid on the ta­ble barely passed 8-6 in March.

Coun­cil­lors on a pri­or­ity and fi­nance com­mit­tee voted 9-1 last week in favour of putting con­tin­ued work on a bid to an­other vote.

Sens­ing a bid was in jeop­ardy, Olympic and Par­a­lympic ath­letes who live and train in the Cal­gary area be­gan cam­paign­ing via let­ters and so­cial me­dia mes­sages to coun­cil­lors.

Cal­gary’s cham­ber of com­merce joined them say­ing Cal­gar­i­ans de­serve to see the out­come of more rig­or­ous ex­plo­ration of a bid.

“We’re happy we’ve lived to fight an­other day, al­though coun­cil has brought up some re­ally im­por­tant com­ments,” Olympic bob­sled­der Seyi Smith said Mon­day out­side city coun­cil cham­bers.

“The onus is re­ally on us, the com­mu­nity, to make sure we do this prop­erly.

“Now that the bidco is go­ing to be put to­gether, who­ever is on that com­mit­tee, the en­tire city, our prov­ince, the coun­try is go­ing to be look­ing at you specif­i­cally. Can you do this right? We just hope you can.”

Cal­gary was the host city of the 1988 Win­ter Olympics. Coun­cil heard Mon­day get­ting an­other 30 years out of the ’88 legacy fa­cil­i­ties will cost be­tween $200 mil­lion and $250 mil­lion.

Nen­shi has in­di­cated a suc­cess­ful Cal­gary bid could bring in much­needed in­fras­truc­ture money from the prov­ince and the feds.

The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee’s dead­line to sub­mit 2026 bids is Jan­uary 2019. The suc­cess­ful host city will be an­nounced Septem­ber 2019.

A bid’s price tag is es­ti­mated at $30 mil­lion. Cal­gary and the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments have com­mit­ted to a three-way split on the cost.

The Al­berta gov­ern­ment is mak­ing its share con­di­tional on Cal­gary hold­ing a plebiscite to mea­sure pub­lic en­thu­si­asm for host­ing an­other Win­ter Games.

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