Cal­gary Olympic bid leader ex­pects close vote

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Donna SPENCER

CAL­GARY — Scott Hutch­e­son car­ries a vol­un­teer medal from the 1988 Win­ter Olympics in Cal­gary with him these days.

His par­ents Bob and Jane re­lo­cated from On­tario for a month to do­nate their time at the Nakiska alpine ski venue dur­ing those games.

Bob re­cently sent the medal to his son, who hopes Cal­gar­i­ans feel its value as much as he does when they vote to­day in a plebiscite on whether or not they want the city to bid on the 2026 Win­ter Games.

“That’s what it’s about,” Hutch­e­son said Mon­day.

“Giv­ing your spirit, giv­ing your all to a com­mu­nity. That’s what he did.”

The board chair of the bid cor­po­ra­tion Cal­gary 2026 feels the plebiscite will be a close race be­tween those who want to host an­other Win­ter Games eight years from now, and those who don’t.

“I think it’s a jump ball,” Hutch­e­son said. “De­pends who votes, de­pends who gets out.”

The re­sult may be non-bind­ing on a Cal­gary city coun­cil that has the fi­nal say on a bid, but it will heav­ily in­flu­ence its de­ci­sion.

“Vote, re­gard­less of where you stand,” Cal­gary mayor Na­heed Nen­shi said. “Let’s make sure there’s a re­ally high voter turnout so there’s an un­am­bigu­ous de­ci­sion on this.

“I hope peo­ple vote ‘yes’. I think there are many, many great rea­sons to keep this process go­ing and to not let this op­por­tu­nity pass us by.”

The caul­dron atop the Cal­gary Tower be­gan ig­nit­ing last week at 8:26 p.m. for 20 min­utes 26 sec­onds. The tower is a sym­bol of the ‘88 Olympics, as the re­lay torch was a replica of it.

The tower is an as­set in Hutch­e­son’s com­mer­cial real es­tate com­pany, but the for­mer na­tional alpine team skier says he’s not us­ing it to ig­nite ‘88 nos­tal­gia in Cal­gar­i­ans to favour an­other bid.

The pro-bid Cal­gary Ho­tel As­so­ci­a­tion is spon­sor­ing the light­ing of the tower in the run-up to the plebiscite, as well as caul­drons at WinS­port and the Olympic Oval, he said.

Cal­gary 2026’s man­date is to “pro­mote a re­spon­si­ble bid.”

It be­came eas­ier to do that, Hutch­e­son said, af­ter the pro­posed cost-shar­ing agree­ment be­tween the three or­ders of gov­ern­ment be­came pub­lic less than two weeks ago.

“The bid is un­der­stood. That mo­men­tum is ex­cit­ing, but it’s late,” he ac­knowl­edged. “If it were done three months ago, it would have left way more time to talk about what this means from an in­vest­ment stand­point.”

In an es­ti­mated $5.1 bil­lion to­tal price tag, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted $1.45 bil­lion and the prov­ince $700 mil­lion.

The city’s share would be $390 mil­lion. Hutch­e­son wants Cal­gar­i­ans to see it as a small in­vest­ment for a big re­turn.

“I never ex­pected this small an in­vest­ment to work from our city at $390 mil­lion,” Hutch­e­son said.

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