Cal­gary should say no to 2026 Olympics

Toronto Star - - INSIGHT -

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

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