KILLING 2026 GAMES BID WOULD SAY NO TO $1.2 BIL­LION

IOC con­tri­bu­tion will van­ish if city res­i­dents re­ject bid in Nov. 13 plebiscite

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It’s hard to shake the im­age of the old, ve­nal In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee that flooded host cities with dig­ni­taries who had to be poured out of their lim­ou­sines.

But the Olympic move­ment is in trou­ble to­day. The new IOC, in be­lated re­sponse, is both more rep­utable and more rea­son­able.

The big­gest con­trib­u­tor to a Cal­gary 2026 Games plan so far is not the prov­ince, with $700 mil­lion, or the city, said to be un­der $500 mil­lion.

It’s the IOC, which pledges US$925 mil­lion, or C$1.2 bil­lion.

That’s roughly the amount the old IOC would hope to take from a com­mu­nity, not put in it.

The gra­cious of­fi­cials who vis­ited this week say they can’t go above US$925 mil­lion.

That’s un­der­stand­able. Of­fer­ing Cal­gary more would con­fer the same ben­e­fit on Stock­holm and Cortina d’Am­pezzo, the other ap­proved can­di­date cities.

But why on earth would Cal­gar­i­ans even ex­pect more than $1.2 bil­lion from the IOC?

That’s money on top of the stated $3 bil­lion in pub­lic funds needed for the Games.

The IOC con­tri­bu­tion is a bo­nanza, a gusher that will be spent mostly in Cal­gary. It’s a no­tax lot­tery win.

This money ac­tu­ally al­lows the NDP gov­ern­ment — which is not keen on the Games at all — to be fru­gal.

The fed­eral con­tri­bu­tion, yet to be an­nounced, will likely be around $1.2 bil­lion, about the same as the IOC.

The stated pub­lic ex­pense of $3 bil­lion must be pared down, be­cause the three-gov­ern­ment to­tal could be only $2.5 bil­lion.

It can be done. Cal­gary’s bid cor­po­ra­tion, Cal­gary 2026, in­cluded al­most $1 bil­lion for “con­tin­gency” in the $3 bil­lion es­ti­mate.

Now, it has to ab­so­lutely en­sure that it won’t be spent.

There are many op­por­tu­ni­ties to cut costs. It’s also likely that Ot­tawa will find other routes to help through pro­gram spend­ing on fa­cil­i­ties, pro­grams and in­fra­struc­ture.

More than $100 mil­lion could van­ish from the Olympic bud­get if Cal­gary Sports and En­ter­tain­ment strikes a deal for a new rink and event cen­tre.

That would ob­vi­ate the need for a sec­ond, smaller rink for Olympic hockey.

The omens for a Flames deal are very good. The own­ers have a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­ward new ap­proaches from city hall.

I ad­mit to a fan­tasy of Sean Mon­a­han scor­ing the gold-medal goal in an arena to ri­val Ed­mon­ton’s mar­vel­lous Rogers Place.

On the fund­ing ba­sis alone, this pic­ture will look good to peo­ple who ac­cept that gov­ern­ments should some­times spend money on big events that gen­er­ate even more value in fa­cil­i­ties, eco­nomic growth, in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion and civic en­thu­si­asm.

It looks even bet­ter when you can do it with the help of $1.2 bil­lion from a sports out­fit head­quar­tered in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land.

But there is a hitch.

On Nov. 13, the polls open for a yes-no ci­ty­wide plebiscite. It won’t match a pot roll­out for crowds, but in­ter­est is high and the cit­i­zens are in­creas­ingly di­vided.

This is not a soft dead­line. Pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials re­con­firmed that Wednes­day. No means no.

The prov­ince will wave good­bye if sup­port for the Games bid is one vote be­low 50 per cent.

The $700 mil­lion will be off the ta­ble, with no hope of re­turn. And the IOC money van­ishes with it.

De­mand­ing this ref­er­en­dum al­lowed the prov­ince to duck re­spon­si­bil­ity for a big cash give to one city in hard times — not a wildly pop­u­lar idea in Ed­mon­ton, for in­stance.

Pro­vin­cial sup­port, if we can even use the word, is highly con­di­tional. There will be no grief in Ed­mon­ton if the Olympic dream dies on Nov. 13.

Com­pare this to the iconic 2010 games in Van­cou­ver, where the big­gest booster of all was the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment un­der Lib­eral Premier Gor­don Camp­bell.

Those wildly suc­cess­ful Games ended up be­long­ing to all of Canada. So would Cal­gary’s.

With­out pro­vin­cial en­thu­si­asm, as crit­ics trum­pet dis­as­ter, maybe we should re­frame the plebiscite ques­tion:

Does Cal­gary re­ally want to give $1.2 bil­lion back to the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee?

GAVIN YOUNG

From left, Han­nah Burns, head of pro­mo­tion, Olympic Games; IOC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Christophe Dubi; Alex Gough, two-time Olympic luge medal­list; Mary Mo­ran, Cal­gary 2026 CEO; and, He­len Up­per­ton, Olympic bob­sled sil­ver medal­list gather fol­low­ing a press con­fer­ence on the Cal­gary 2026 Win­ter Olympics bid at Canada Olympic Park on Wednes­day.

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