Campbell urged the case for bidding for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games at a sold out luncheon of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce where the former Vancouver mayor shared insights from that city’s experience in 2010.
“You’re going to hear lots of negatives; you’re going to hear from people telling you, ‘It’s high risk’. I’m here to tell you it’s not very high risk anymore,” Campbell said.
“Canada should know this: We’re really good at hosting Olympic Games, we’re really good at building community, we’re really good at building public-private partnerships that aim to create a long term legacy — a legacy that’s social and economic.”
Touching on highlights from the 2010 Games in Vancouver — from the men’s hockey final becoming the most-watched television broadcast in Canadian history to the legacy of the Own the Podium medal development program — Campbell acknowledged himself to be an “unabashed” supporter of the Olympics.
The benefits to the wider community went beyond the party atmosphere that permeated Vancouver neighbourhoods during the Games, Campbell said, and extended to job skills training programs that benefited disadvantaged groups and to “billions” in investment dollars generated by the Games.
Vancouver’s bid emerged during a period of economic uncertainty following the burst of the dot-com bubble and 9/11, he added, not unlike conditions that accompanied Alberta’s recent downturn.
“I’m not here to tell you that the Olympics can solve every problem that everyone has in this community. They will not,” he said. “But they will do an awful lot to lift the community up, (to) see the solutions that are available to them and see what they can accomplish when they do work together.”
Calgary’s bid, with its “reasonable budget” — focused on refurbishing existing facilities — compares favourably against recent Games’ budgets that ran into the tens of billions for hosts like Beijing and Sochi, he added.
But the outcome of the Nov. 13 plebiscite on the Olympic bid will be important, said Campbell, especially when it comes to bringing the financial support of the province on board. In 2003, nearly two-thirds of Vancouverites voted ‘yes’ to the Olympics, with a turnout of 46 per cent.
Though the outcome of the plebiscite is technically non-binding, Campbell said he would bet “a significant chunk of money” that city council will follow the decision of the electorate.
“I think that the plebiscite will be a great opportunity for people to say to the province, ‘We want to be a part of this, we want to move forward,’” Campbell said following his speech Monday. “And you’ll watch as the province will come to the table, as well as the city and others.
“I think this is a challenging situation. What’s happening here is people in Calgary are being asked, ‘Would you like to host the Olympic Games?’ And, as I said today, I hope they’ll say yes.”
Chamber president Sandip Lalli said Monday that the organization has yet to take an official position on a bid.
The chamber is waiting to hear an indication of what the province’s financial commitment would be to the Games — expected to come at least 30 days before the Nov. 13 vote — before it declares whether it will endorse a bid, Lalli said.