‘A big win’ or a big dis­ap­point­ment?

Lobby groups split on mer­its of Games, with pub­lic vote planned for Novem­ber

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - RYAN RUMBOLT With files from Zach Laing RRum­[email protected] On Twit­ter: @RCRum­bolt

Af­ter coun­cil de­cided to con­tinue a push to­ward the 2026 Olympics, two ri­val lobby groups are urg­ing Cal­gar­i­ans and the city to think about the bot­tom line be­fore bet­ting on a bid.

Af­ter hours of de­lib­er­a­tion, coun­cil voted late Tues­day to con­tinue with a planned pub­lic vote on the Games in Novem­ber.

The Cal­gary 2026 bid cor­po­ra­tion pub­licly re­leased its draft host plan be­fore the vote, out­lin­ing a $5.2-bil­lion bud­get to host the Games’ events at venues in Cal­gary, Can­more, Whistler and pos­si­bly Ed­mon­ton.

NoCal­gar­yO­lympics is a group of Cal­gar­i­ans who aren’t op­posed to Cal­gary host­ing the Games in the fu­ture, but or­ga­nizer Daniel Gauld says the group is against Cal­gary host­ing the Olympics dur­ing cur­rent tough eco­nomic times.

The group says it’s heard from thou­sands of Cal­gar­i­ans who feel the city’s fis­cal pri­or­i­ties ought to be else­where, as many Al­ber­tans are still strug­gling fi­nan­cially and frus­trated by a stalled Trans Moun­tain pipe­line project.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing that (coun­cil) did not give due con­sid­er­a­tion to this cur­rent eco­nomic un­cer­tainty, as well as cold, hard facts like the 27 per cent down­town of­fice va­cancy, which is the high­est in the coun­try,” NoCal­gar­yO­lympics said in a state­ment.

The draft plan shows the pub­lic por­tion of the Games cost amounts to $3 bil­lion di­vided be­tween mu­nic­i­pal, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

Ot­tawa is ex­pected to pay at least half that amount, and Cal­gary’s por­tion of the bill is an es­ti­mated $500 mil­lion (or 15 per cent) if a cost-shar­ing agree­ment can be reached with the prov­ince.

The re­main­ing costs would be paid through In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee con­tri­bu­tions, spon­sor­ships, tick­et­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing.

On the op­po­site side of the de­bate from Gauld’s group is Yes Cal­gary 2026.

Yes Cal­gary am­bas­sador Stephen Carter called Tues­day ’s vote “a big win” for Olympic sup­port­ers and said the dol­lar fig­ures in the draft plan should be enough to quiet naysay­ers.

“There’s no other cap­i­tal project where we can in­vest 15 per cent ... nor­mally we have to in­vest twice that much,” Carter said, call­ing a suc­cess­ful bid an “op­por­tu­nity to lever­age” other or­ders of gov­ern­ment to help pay for sport­ing venues in the city.

He also said while the city may not dou­ble its in­vest­ment by host­ing the Games, the econ­omy stands to ben­e­fit from an uptick in em­ploy­ment and tourism spend­ing.

NoCal­gar­yO­lympics said it has con­cerns the IOC will reap the big­gest ben­e­fit from the Games while Cal­gar­i­ans will be left with the bill.

“Pur­su­ing a com­pet­i­tive bid caters to the in­ter­ests of IOC mem­bers rather than to the needs and pri­or­i­ties of Cal­gary,” the group said. “It is sim­ply bad busi­ness to en­ter the IOC’s host city con­tract that gives to­tal con­trol to the IOC while all of the risk is shoul­dered by the city.”

NoCal­gar­yO­lympics wants Cal­gar­i­ans to vote against host­ing the Games when they head to the polls on Nov. 13, call­ing cit­i­zens “the last hope for pro­tect­ing the in­ter­ests of the city,” adding coun­cil “has cho­sen to col­lec­tively shirk its re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

But Carter said the draft plan de­tails al­low Yes Cal­gary 2026 and its 700 am­bas­sadors to bet­ter in­form Cal­gar­i­ans on the ben­e­fits of host­ing ahead of the plebiscite vote.

“We move from peo­ple who are highly en­gaged . . . to peo­ple who are less en­gaged,” Carter said. “Now they need to get in­formed and un­der­stand what’s go­ing on and de­ter­mine their po­si­tion.”

Although Cal­gary 2026 CEO Mary Mo­ran cited a po­ten­tial $7.4-bil­lion in po­ten­tial eco­nomic ben­e­fits, Trevor Tombe, an as­so­ciate eco­nomic pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, said it was some­thing he found “pretty con­cern­ing.”

“It’s dra­mat­i­cally over­stated for a num­ber of rea­sons,” said Tombe.

“First, the spend­ing on the Games is a re­al­lo­ca­tion of pub­lic funds from other uses. We don’t ac­count for the op­por­tu­nity costs, or the dis­place­ment ef­fects of shift­ing those funds from else­where, and the work­ers, the in­vest­ment cap­i­tal, that shifts as well.

“The Games are not an in­cre­men­tal ad­di­tion to the econ­omy, they’re shift­ing the eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity from one area to an­other and that was not re­flected in their es­ti­mates.”

Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi said host­ing the Olympics could at­tract bil­lions in in­vest­ment to help pay for projects that would nor­mally come out of city cof­fers.

Out­side coun­cil cham­bers on Tues­day, the mayor said he is “not as much pro-Olympics” as he is “pro a great deal for Cal­gary,” adding coun­cil still has op­tions to stop the bid process even af­ter the plebiscite.

“If the plebiscite passes, then there won’t be more re­ports to coun­cil, ‘do you want to move for­ward?’ ” he said. “There will still be an op­por­tu­nity . . . to come back and say ‘it’s not work­ing.’ ”

GAVIN YOUNG

Daniel Gauld, founder of the NoCal­gar­yO­lympics cam­paign, says he is against host­ing the Games dur­ing tough eco­nomic times.

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