‘If we choose to bid, we’ll win’

Cal­gary city coun­cil mulls putting more money into pos­si­ble 2026 Olympic bid

Northumberland Today - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

Cal­gary is com­ing up on an of­framp for the 2026 Win­ter Games as city coun­cil con­tem­plates spend­ing more money on a po­ten­tial bid.

A project team com­prised of city ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­sul­tants asked coun­cil Mon­day for $2 mil­lion to con­tinue the work of the Cal­gary Bid Ex­plo­ration Com­mit­tee, which ended oper­a­tions Oct. 31.

Coun­cil heard the ra­tio­nale be­hind the ask and will de­cide next week whether to grant that re­quest.

“My un­der­stand­ing from what we’re hear­ing to­day is with­out the additional fund­ing it will be very, very hard to ac­tu­ally move for­ward, so coun­cil needs to de­ter­mine if they’re in for a bit more here,” Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi said.

Coun­cil com­mit­ted $5 mil­lion just over a year ago to CBEC, which con­cluded the price tag for host­ing the 2026 Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games would be ap­prox­i­mately $4.6 bil­lion.

CBEC pre­dicted Games rev­enue would cover some of the cost, but an­other $2.4 bil­lion would be needed.

CBEC’s work came in $1.5 mil­lion un­der bud­get. The sav­ings were passed onto a city project team that has taken over as­sess­ing risk of host­ing the Games.

Coun­cil wants a deep dive into ad­dress­ing five ar­eas be­fore it green­lights a bid: Cap­i­tal costs; se­cu­rity; op­er­at­ing costs; fi­nances; and fi­nan­cial guar­an­tees.

An­nounce­ments by the International Olympic Com­mit­tee since CBEC’s re­port have changed time­lines and al­tered the fi­nan­cial pic­ture for cities in­ter­ested in 2026.

The IOC will in­vite cities to bid in Oc­to­ber 2018, fol­lowed by bid sub­mis­sions in Jan­uary 2019. The lat­ter is six months ear­lier than the orig­i­nal dead­line for bids in late 2019.

The IOC also an­nounced last month it will con­trib­ute US$925 mil­lion to the suc­cess­ful bid city.

Cal­gary recre­ation di­rec­tor Kyle Ri­p­ley says the project team is es­sen­tially do­ing the prepa­ra­tion work of a bid cor­po­ra­tion, and with time­lines tight­en­ing, more money is needed to en­sure Cal­gary will be suc­cess­ful if it de­cides to bid.

He com­pared the process to a marathon with Oc­to­ber the start line and Jan­uary the fin­ish line.

“It’s a four-month race,” Ri­p­ley said. “With­out that in­vest­ment, we be­lieve it will not be pos­si­ble to pro­ceed with a com­pet­i­tive bid.

“We rec­om­mend a higher level of com­mit­ment to sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove our chances of win­ning the marathon. Cur­rently we are not po­si­tioned well to be get­ting ready for race day.

“If we con­tinue at our cur­rent pace, we run the risk of show­ing up not pre­pared for the race.”

A re­port sub­mit­ted to coun­cil es­ti­mated a bid would cost be­tween $25 mil­lion and $30 mil­lion.

“It’s coun­cil’s choice, it’s Cal­gary’s choice, but if we choose to bid, we’ll win,” Nen­shi de­clared. “The ques­tion is, is it right for Cal­gary right now?

“If it’s right for Cal­gary, then we will go all guns in. I think that we will have an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful bid and I think we’ll win.”

With fewer cities in­ter­ested in host­ing Olympic Games, the IOC has been over­haul­ing time­lines and rules for bid­ding and host­ing to make both cheaper and eas­ier to take on.

So those work­ing on what a Cal­gary bid might look like have had to con­tend with a chang­ing land­scape. Host city con­tracts for 2026 won’t be re­leased by the IOC un­til July.

Nen­shi had hoped it would be March af­ter the con­clu­sion of the Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“As I’ve said many times, the num­bers have to work,” he said. “If the num­bers in the host city con­tract don’t work, we stop.

“There’s still off-ramps. There’s still an op­por­tu­nity to say ’no.’”

Cal­gary and IOC of­fi­cials are sched­uled to meet in Jan­uary for con­sul­ta­tions, but the city isn’t re­quired to make any pre­sen­ta­tions or guar­an­tees dur­ing this “di­a­logue” or “in­vi­ta­tion” phase.

“One thing that we’ve re­ally heard from the International Olympic Com­mit­tee is that they’re in­ter­ested our can­di­da­ture,” Nen­shi said. “They want to sup­port us in putting the best bid pos­si­ble for­ward.”

The 2010 Win­ter Games in Van­cou­ver and Whistler, B.C., cost $7.7 bil­lion and the bid cost $34 mil­lion.

Cal­gary’s costs to host a Win­ter Games is lower in part be­cause the city can re­use venues from the 1988 Win­ter Games, CBEC chair Rick Han­son has said.

Sion, Switzer­land, and Stock­holm, Swe­den, are the other cities ex­press­ing the strong­est in­ter­est in 2026. Inns­bruck, Aus­tria, dropped out af­ter a re­cent ref­er­en­dum.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

A uni­form from the 1988 Cal­gary Olympic torch run is seen in this file photo.

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