· CBC News ·
A grassroots group pushing for Calgary to host the 2026 Winter Games says it’s time to build on the 1988 Olympic legacy.
And, ‘Yes Calgary 2026’ believes the city could do the job without going over budget.
About 350 people turned out to an engagement session at WinSport on Tuesday, all eager to find out what it will take to bring the Games back to Calgary.
But, there was an Olympic-sized elephant in the room: No one knows yet just how much the full estimated cost of the 2026 Games will be. That number won’t be available until September.
But, Yes Calgary 2026 organizer Jason Ribeiro said his group is confident Calgary can do what no other host city has done since 1960: stay in the black.
“Calgary has done something that is the crown jewel of international sports world,” he said.
“In terms of cost overruns, we’re not going to have to do the building that other cities needed to do in terms of infrastructure. We can take the best of some of the previous games and apply it now in terms of reusing and recycling when it comes to construction.”
But, Erin Waite with the No Calgary Olympics campaign said cost control isn’t in the host city’s power — that’s up to the International Olympic Committee.
“One hundred per cent of the control is with the IOC,” she said. “The IOC is looking after their interests, they are not looking at the city of Calgary’s interests, that’s not their job or not their interest.”
No matter what Calgary does differently, Waite said the city would be contractually obligated to cover any unforeseen costs.
“We have to comply with those terms we sign on and that’s what we’d have to live by,” she said.
Ribeiro said leading up to the November plebiscite, where Calgarians will vote whether or not to move forward with an Olympic bid, his team will be engaging with sceptics.
“Calgary is different in terms of circumstances for other games,” he said. “I think there are concerns, but let’s tackle them one by one.”
Ribeiro added that the engagement sessions wasn’t meant to bring people on board immediately.
“It was about establishing trust with people who are sceptical by engaging with a bunch of people who seem to be supportive about the idea of the potentials,” he said.
“Whether they’re sport related, economic related or something related to the social fabric of our community.”
But, for Olympian Tristan Walker — who took home a silver in luge team relay in Pyeongchang this past year — it’s less about the money, and more about keeping Calgary’s aging Olympic facilities up and running.
“The update to the facilities, that’s important. [They] obviously need some maintenance and some updating and cost-wise that’s a lot less expensive than building new facilities,” he said.
Walker said he also wants to make sure Canadian kids 30 years from now had the same opportunities he was afforded thanks to Calgary’s Olympic venues.
Walker recalled, after winning the silver medal, in between media interviews, the team was told something he says he’ll never forget.
“Our media liaison came up to us and said, ‘The phone’s ringing off the hook back home. Parents want to know how to get their kids in the sport of luge,'” he said.
“That’s one of the things that really stuck with me, because we just inspired kids to do it from an Olympics across the world, so to do it in our own backyard would be huge.”