Numbers, human stories say ‘Yes’ to Olympics
Games would generate $1 billion of wages for Calgarians, Calgary 2026 CEO says
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.