Thrifty Olympic plan goes back to fu­ture

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - OPINION -

When host­ing the 2026 Win­ter Games be­gan to be floated in Cal­gary, the goal was to pro­duce a low-bud­get ver­sion that would in­ject some fis­cal san­ity to the Olympic move­ment. With pre­vi­ous Win­ter and Sum­mer Games, coun­tries blew their brains out to im­press the world.

Cal­gary, which hosted in 1988, would en­list most of its legacy fa­cil­i­ties at great sav­ings.

CEO Mary Mo­ran and her Cal­gary 2026 bid cor­po­ra­tion have de­liv­ered on that premise. Their pre-bid plan says the Games could be held for $5.2 bil­lion (2018 dol­lars), at a cost of $3 bil­lion to tax­pay­ers. The rest of the rev­enue comes from the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee, tick­ets and spon­sors.

That’s sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than 2010 Van­cou­ver ($7 bil­lion), 2014 Sochi ($50 bil­lion) and 2018 Pyeongchang ($13 bil­lion).

The Cal­gary pro­posal, which goes to a Nov. 13 plebiscite, uses all the sports fa­cil­i­ties from 1988, ex­cept the ski jumps. The Van­cou­ver Games’ ski jump in Whistler, B.C., would be reused in­stead.

Sco­tia­bank Sad­dle­dome, McMa­hon Sta­dium, Olympic Oval, Can­more Nordic Cen­tre, Nakiska Ski Re­sort and WinS­port’s slid­ing and ski cen­tre would be up­graded and ren­o­vated at a pro­jected cost of $503 mil­lion.

So far there’s no venue for curl­ing, but it has been sug­gested Ed­mon­ton could host it.

The only new venues would be a field house and a 6,000-seat arena. But if the city and the Cal­gary Flames’ own­ers reach an agree­ment on an NHL rink, the or­ga­niz­ers would in­cor­po­rate it into the Games.

Mo­ran and com­pany aimed to sat­isfy mu­nic­i­pal, Al­berta and fed­eral purse string hold­ers. There’s no way the two se­nior gov­ern­ments want to be seen sign­ing blank cheques for a sport­ing event that has taken its share of knocks in re­cent years. And there’s lit­tle ap­petite in Cal­gary for rais­ing mu­nic­i­pal taxes.

The plan also boasts of $600 mil­lion to create 2,800 units in an ath­letes’ vil­lage that would be turned into long-term hous­ing. And Mo­ran notes the Games would pump $2 bil­lion into Al­berta’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, pay $200 mil­lion in taxes and pro­duce 2,200 tem­po­rary jobs. Keep in mind vir­tu­ally ev­ery Olympics has un­der­es­ti­mated costs and over­es­ti­mated ben­e­fits.

There are still some mys­ter­ies in the bid: We know Ottawa would con­trib­ute up to 50 per cent, but there’s no cost-shar­ing deals with the Al­berta gov­ern­ment and pos­si­bly B.C. gov­ern­ment yet.

How­ever, with all this talk about money, let’s not for­get the pri­mary pur­pose of hold­ing the Olympics, is about throw­ing a world party that thrills and in­spires.

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