Num­bers, hu­man sto­ries say ‘Yes’ to Olympics

Games would gen­er­ate $1 bil­lion of wages for Cal­gar­i­ans, Cal­gary 2026 CEO says

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - LI­CIA COR­BELLA Li­cia Cor­bella is a Post­media colum­nist. lcor­[email protected]­

I want to be able to of­fer those op­por­tu­ni­ties to my chil­dren.

First the num­bers, then the hu­man­ity.

More than $4.4 bil­lion. That’s how much money will be in­jected into Cal­gary should this city host the 2026 Win­ter Olympics and Par­a­lympic Games.

Zero is how much of that $4.4 bil­lion will be spent in Cal­gary if we don’t host the Games.

Fully $1.2 bil­lion of that money will come from the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee. It’s pos­si­ble, if ticket sales, mer­chan­dis­ing and tele­vi­sion con­tracts are higher than ex­pected, that Cal­gary will re­ceive even more from the IOC.

These were some of the key mes­sages im­parted Wednes­day at Canada Olympic Park, as lugers whizzed by while IOC and Cal­gary 2026 of­fi­cials ad­dressed me­dia.

IOC of­fi­cial Christophe Dubi said the IOC has com­mit­ted US$925 mil­lion, which equates to C$1.2 bil­lion, to which­ever city wins the Olympic bid.

“What is clear from the past is that ev­ery time we have up­sides of our com­mer­cial con­tracts we want to make sure that the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tees can ben­e­fit,” Dubi added.

“The IOC is a not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. We don’t keep the money. We gen­er­ate money and re­dis­tribute it im­me­di­ately to the Games or­ga­niz­ers, to the in­ter­na­tional sport fed­er­a­tions, to the na­tional Olympic com­mit­tees and, even­tu­ally, it’s $3.25 mil­lion a day that goes back into sport for the ben­e­fit of the ath­letes. So what we can com­mit at this stage is what we have. Any­thing that we can gen­er­ate in the fu­ture that would be over and above, the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee would ben­e­fit as well. The lat­est one is a good ex­am­ple. It’s Pyeongchang,” he said of the South Korean city that hosted the 2018 Win­ter Olympics.

“As a re­sult, you’ve prob­a­bly seen they have gen­er­ated a fi­nan­cial profit of US$52 mil­lion.”

Cal­gary 2026 CEO Mary Mo­ran said: “We’re still talk­ing about at a min­i­mum $4.4 bil­lion com­ing into this com­mu­nity, and that’s with­out un­der­stand­ing what the city is com­mit­ting.”

That’s a lot of money to walk away from, par­tic­u­larly since Cal­gary al­ready has 87 per cent of the venues al­ready built and sim­ply need some re­fresh­ing. It means a field house that the City of Cal­gary has had on its books for many years now (and that Ed­mon­ton has three of ) fi­nally gets built.

Then there’s the spinoffs.

“It means real growth at a time when our econ­omy is strug­gling,” said Mo­ran, who stepped away from her job as the head of Cal­gary Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment to take on the Olympic bid.

“This means real jobs. This would gen­er­ate more than $1 bil­lion of wages for Cal­gar­i­ans. That’s money in the pock­ets of those who re­ally need it to­day. That’s money for those peo­ple to spend in restau­rants and in bars and in cof­fee shops, and money for lo­cal busi­nesses and their work­ers.”

But Canada’s first-ever Olympic medal­list in luge didn’t men­tion money once. Alex Gough wasn’t even one year old when the 1988 Olympics were un­der­way. But the vi­sion of those Cal­gary Olympic pi­o­neers is some­thing she says she is eter­nally grate­ful for.


“I speak from the per­spec­tive of the quin­tes­sen­tial legacy baby,” said Gough, who took time away from her civil en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary and her cor­po­rate job down­town to stand on the windswept plat­form next to the slid­ing track’s fin­ish line.

“My fam­ily was able to take ad­van­tage of so many of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that were avail­able as a re­sult of that Olympics,” added Gough, who made his­tory at Pyeongchang 2018, win­ning bronze in the women’s sin­gles event for Canada’s first Olympic luge medal.

“Not only get­ting in­volved in the luge but I learned to skate at the Olympic Oval, I came and skied at WinS­port with my el­e­men­tary school and I learned to snow­board here. It’s those op­por­tu­ni­ties for re­cre­ation within the com­mu­ni­ties that has en­hanced so many tens and hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives that is so valu­able,” she said. “It’s not just about Olympians.

“I’d love to see that spirit and those op­por­tu­ni­ties re­vi­tal­ized again for this com­ing gen­er­a­tion and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. I’m go­ing to be here and have a fam­ily here, and I want to be able to of­fer those op­por­tu­ni­ties to my chil­dren,” the 31-year-old said. “What’s that worth?” she asked rhetor­i­cally. “It’s price­less, isn’t it?”


The ques­tion now is, will a ma­jor­ity of Cal­gary vot­ers think so come Nov. 13 when they get to vote on whether to bid for this op­por­tu­nity.

The num­ber com­ing out of that plebiscite will help de­ter­mine just how much more hu­man our city be­comes go­ing for­ward.


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