More than 100 residents attended the city’s second public engagement session on a potential 2026 Winter Olympics bid, and a majority expressed a negative opinion of the bid.
Local resident Dianne Bailie, who attended the session at Hotel Blackfoot on Oct. 17, was unsure how much the games would cost Calgary.
“I don’t know that there’s enough dollar amounts established from the various places that they’re going to get them from to know how much Calgary itself is going to be in for at the end of the day,” Bailie said.
She was also concerned about the locations of the Olympic events if the games were to happen in 2026, and remained undecided about whether to support the bid.
“I don’t want the opening ceremony to be in Edmonton,” she said.
Bruce Hamilton and Sandra Kelly, city residents who attended the session, were also concerned about the impact on the economy, as well as, the $2.5 billion in public investment the Olympic corporation has asked for.
“There isn’t enough information here. We still don’t know how much the federal government will put in,” he said.
Hamilton and Kelly said the public engagement session didn’t provide enough information to satisfy their concerns and they will be voting “no” in the Nov. 13 plebiscite.
Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who also attended the public engagement session, said that the city has money, but the question is whether residents want to spend that money on the games.
“Calgary Olympic experience in ‘88 is one of the most successful Olympic legacies in the history of the Olympic movement,” he said.
Carra said when Calgary hosted the games in 1988 there were no gold medals won, but those legacy facilities have since trained athletes who are bringing gold for the country.
These facilities are 40 years old and now require an upgrade, which they can get in 2026 with the Olympic games.
Carra said the Olympics represent an opportunity for Calgary to leverage some of the tax dollars that are sent out to the province, as well as the country, and spend them instead on facilities “we need.”
Erin Waite, from the No Calgary Olympics campaign, was at the public engagement, concerned about the strain of hosting the games on the city.
“All the risk is carried by the city of Calgary, so even if the federal government and the provincial government participate and step up with some funding all the risk is still on Calgary and we have to understand that.”
She said participating in the Olympics is “terrific” and a “wonderful thing” but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a host city contract which “dictates” the time and locations for the Olympics.
Unless the IOC reforms itself, it’s not a “good idea” to get involved, said Waite.
She said there are projects the city will be unable to focus one because of the Olympics and that is a “frightening distraction” from what is important for residents.
Don Goodrow of the Yes Calgary 2026 campaign, who was also at the hotel, said he’s “passionate” about hosting the games again in 2026 because of the community engagement and the legacy of the games in 1988.
“I was involved in the ‘88 Olympics and those of us who were, we still remember fondly and with pride what we were able to do there,” he said.
Goodrow said he also “believed” the economics would work because of the existing Olympic facilities.
The capital cost of the facilities will then be $1.6 billion and the city already spends “about the same amount” on capital each year.