Calgary should say no to 2026 Olympics
Re Canada might have to come to the rescue, Oct. 10 Bruce Arthur rightly uses a tone of skepticism as he reviews the International Olympic Committee’s claims that it has reformed and can promise low-cost Games.
He’s also right to question a Calgary 2026 bid that discounts the cost of security ($600 million when Vancouver ran up a $1-billion bill) and assumes corporate sponsorship will be double what Vancouver realized.
But for Calgarians, that’s only the start of reasons to say no in the Nov. 13th plebiscite on hosting the Winter Games in 2026.
Calgary has been crawling out of an economic recession for years. While some of the statistics show recovery and upticks, we have 27 per cent downtown office vacancy and many thousands of people who have never returned to meaningful, well-paying work.
The September announcement declaring a stalled Trans Mountain pipeline put a harsh light on the idea of hosting a multibillion-dollar party for the IOC.
The nostalgia for the 1988 Winter Games is often trotted out, dressed in the puffy, aqua ski jackets worn by volunteers. But nothing about the 2026 Winter Games will be like 1988. Then, Calgary kept the broadcast revenue; now that goes to the IOC.
The scale of the Olympic circus has increased exponentially. And security costs are a question mark. Nothing about 1988 indicates success in 2026.
Perhaps if Calgary and other cities around the world stop bidding, the IOC will have the crisis needed to truly reform — not only the flawed competitive bid structure that pits city against city, but the excess, the scandals and the IOC’s unwillingness to take a firm stand on doping.
In Calgary, there’s been a struggle to articulate a compelling reason for this project. We’re fed a vague story about a “no-build” Olympics, but somehow it’ll also leave a legacy, and with major events held out of province.
When Calgary’s bid organization leaders talk about the Olympics being “all we’ve got” and that “short-term jobs are better than nothing,” there are more confused looks than cheering from the cheap seats.
As we approach a plebiscite date, and another missed deadline for sharing full costs and risks, as well as the terms of government cost-sharing, Calgarians are losing the little interest they had. Erin Waite, NoCalgaryOlympics.org, Calgary