Calgary Herald - - EDITORIAL -

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.

Many pre­vi­ous Win­ter and Sum­mer Games had be­come dom­i­nated by coun­tries blow­ing their brains out to im­press the world.

Cal­gary, which hosted in 1988, would be dif­fer­ent. We wouldn’t need to rein­vent the Olympic wheel.

Most of our legacy fa­cil­i­ties still in use could be en­listed at great sav­ings in the first three Rs (re­duce, re­use, re­cy­cle) Games.

CEO Mary Mo­ran and her Cal­gary 2026 bid cor­po­ra­tion have de­liv­ered on that premise.

In what she says is one of most com­pre­hen­sive pre-bid plans ever pro­duced, the 2026 Win­ter Games can be held for $5.2 bil­lion (in 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 the pre­vi­ous three Win­ter Games (Sochi, $50 bil­lion; Pyeongchang, $13 bil­lion; and Van­cou­ver, $7 bil­lion), and no doubt cheaper than the next event in Bei­jing.

The Cal­gary pro­posal, which will now need ap­proval in a Nov. 13 plebiscite, uses all the sports fa­cil­i­ties from 1988, ex­cept the Canada Olympic Park ski jumps. The Whistler, B.C., ski jump venue will be reused in­stead.

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

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

The only new sports venues pro­posed are a field house, a peren­nial “nice to have” on Cal­gary’s cap­i­tal bud­get list, and a 6,000-seat arena.

Those hop­ing for greater gifts, such as a new NHL-sized arena and a CTrain route to the air­port, will be dis­ap­pointed.

But if the city and the Flames’ own­ers reach an agree­ment on an NHL rink, the or­ga­niz­ers would re­jig venues and in­cor­po­rate the new barn into the Games.

Mo­ran and com­pany have es­chewed those ex­pec­ta­tions to sat­isfy the mu­nic­i­pal, Al­berta and fed­eral purse string hold­ers.

In this po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, 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 “citius, al­tius, for­tius.”

To make it even more palat­able, the plan boasts of spend­ing $600 mil­lion to cre­ate 2,800 units in an ath­letes’ vil­lage that would be turned into long-term hous­ing.

Mo­ran also notes that Cal­gary Games II would pump $2 bil­lion into Al­berta’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, pay $200 mil­lion in tax rev­enues and pro­duce 2,200 tem­po­rary jobs. Keep in mind vir­tu­ally ev­ery Olympics, in­clud­ing the ’88 Games, has un­der­es­ti­mated costs and over­es­ti­mated ben­e­fits.

Although Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi has seen enough to pro­ceed, there are still some mys­ter­ies in the bid: We know Ot­tawa will con­trib­ute up to 50 per cent, but we don’t yet have a cost­shar­ing deal with the Al­berta gov­ern­ment and pos­si­bly B.C. gov­ern­ment; there­fore, we don’t know what the pro­jected im­pact will be on our mu­nic­i­pal tax bills.

How­ever, with all this talk about money, let’s not for­get that the pri­mary pur­pose of hold­ing the Olympics, as those who were here in 1988 know, is about throw­ing a world party that thrills and in­spires be­lief in what hu­mans are ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing as hosts and ath­letes.


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