Olympic bid sup­port­ers speak up in Cal­gary

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Lau­ren KRUGEL

CAL­GARY — Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi says the naysay­ers have been win­ning the de­bate over whether Cal­gary should hold the Win­ter Olympics in 2026, but there’s still time to change the nar­ra­tive be­fore a non­bind­ing vote on the bid next Tues­day.

Nen­shi’s re­marks capped off a pro-bid rally which fea­tured a pa­rade of Olympians and a del­uge of 1988 nostalgia from Cal­gary’s first turn at play­ing host.

“We are, my friends, in the last week of an elec­tion cam­paign. It’s an elec­tion cam­paign that to­day we’re go­ing to lose,” Nen­shi told the crowd in a down­town con­ven­tion cen­tre Mon­day, a Team Canada scarf draped over his shoul­ders.

“But we have the power to turn that around. And that power is within ev­ery one of our hands.”

Last week, the bid ap­peared on the brink of death as the city, the prov­ince of Al­berta and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment wran­gled over cost shar­ing. Nen­shi called the week the “gross­est” of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, but said it led to a great deal.

“What we have is un­de­ni­ably an out­stand­ing bid and an out­stand­ing deal for Cal­gary and we’ve got to tell our friends and our neigh­bours.”

He urged bid sup­port­ers to speak up on­line and in cof­fee shops and to text ev­ery­one they know be­fore the plebiscite.

“For bet­ter or worse, we’ve al­lowed the naysay­ers to con­trol the nar­ra­tive. If you look on so­cial me­dia, you prob­a­bly think 100 per cent of Cal­gary is op­posed to the Olympics. If you lis­ten to the loud­est voices, whether they’re politi­cians or peo­ple in line at the Tim Hor­tons, you’d think ev­ery­body hates the Olympics,” Nen­shi said.

“But that’s not true.”

No Cal­gary Olympics, a three-mem­ber grass­roots group with no ad­ver­tis­ing money, has been try­ing to push its anti-bid mes­sage with­out the same Olympian star power.

The group’s con­cerns in­clude the cost, the trans­parency and ethics of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee and what it sees as short­com­ings in the bid process.

Op­pos­ing a bid isn’t a slight against Cal­gary, spokes­woman Erin Waite said.

“We’re not doubters about Cal­gary’s ini­tia­tive or ca­pac­ity or en­thu­si­asm for tak­ing on big projects,” she said. “It’s a mat­ter of if it’s the right project now and what won’t we be able to do be­cause we’re choos­ing the Olympics.”

The bid has an es­ti­mated price tag of $5.1 bil­lion. The prov­ince has said it would kick in $700 mil­lion of that and Ot­tawa would cover $1.4 bil­lion. The city was asked to con­trib­ute $390 mil­lion, which in­cludes $20 mil­lion for a $200-mil­lion in­surance pol­icy against cost over­runs.

The re­main­der would be ex­pected to come from ticket sales and other rev­enues.

Mon­day’s rally fea­tured British ski-jumper Michael Ed­wards – bet­ter known as Ed­die the Ea­gle – and 1988 mas­cots Hidy and Howdy. Some came to the rally wear­ing vin­tage Olympic swag.

“I think you did such a great job in 1988 and there was such a great buzz and there’s con­tin­ued to be that buzz for the last 30 years,” Ed­wards said.

Olympians, in­clud­ing gold-medal sprinter Dono­van Bai­ley and multi-medal-win­ning hockey player Cassie Camp­bell-Pas­call, spoke of the im­por­tance of re­fur­bish­ing the city’s sports fa­cil­i­ties.

Univer­sity of Al­berta pro­fes­sor Stacy Lorenz, who stud­ies the so­ci­ol­ogy and his­tory of sports, said it’s not sur­pris­ing bid boost­ers are tug­ging at heart­strings by in­vok­ing past Olympic glory.

“They are go­ing to have to make an ar­gu­ment for civic pride and na­tional iden­tity, be­cause if you look hard at the eco­nom­ics of it, that is not go­ing to con­vince peo­ple to sup­port the bid.”


Cal­gary 2026 Olympic bid sup­port­ers pose in a photo booth dur­ing a rally in Cal­gary on Mon­day.

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