I am writing to add to the conversation about Canmore joining Calgary’s bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Partnering with Calgary to host the 2026 Games is an exceptional opportunity that we must seize.
The hosting plan released in September makes clear the many benefits that will accrue to Canmore. Infrastructure, of course, but also the opportunity to inspire new generations of youth for sport and volunteers for events.
And the future is coming, regardless of whether or not we host the Games. That future will include a growing Calgary and a growing number of visits to the mountains by not only Calgarians, but by visitors from around the world. The future will also include Canmore’s status as the only mountain town in Alberta where a person can own property without having to demonstrate a need to reside. These things add up to the continuation of pressure from outside our community.
How do we best cope with this pressure?
We need tools, infrastructure and a plan for the future. Hosting the Olympics will help us address all three of these things.
The 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Canmore hosting the Nordic and biathlon events will be a great way to showcase the Canmore “can do” volunteer power.
Local races, regional races, provincial races, western championships, national championships, continental cups, and world cups – Canmore is host to all of these.
They are being hosted here in Canmore year after year, and in some cases, month after month by an amazing group of local volunteers, sports organizations, the Town of Canmore, and the Nordic Centre along with key partners.
The Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be a great show of Canmore volunteer power and will set the stage for years of future events to follow. Volunteerism creates a sense of common accomplishment, community pride and community involvement. An active and involved community has “good energy” – an intangible but quite noticeable element of life here in Canmore.
An opportunity to be a partner in Calgary’s 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralymic Winter Games is not only in our wheelhouse, but this is a chance to capitalize on opportunities that would not otherwise be available to us.
There are significant revenue tools that could come with a Games that will help us fulfill the Town’s already laid out goals for the future of this growing community.
With strong vision, hosting a major event like this can help with not only much needed affordable housing and infrastructure, but life improving enhancements in town accessibility, socio-cultural project funding, broadband internet and the less quantifiable community engagement and pride in where we live.
It is not surprising that an event seven years away would be surrounded by questions. What is certain, however, is that our Town has clear objectives and priorities. Without the Games opportunity there are no added revenue tools coming our way to support the needs we have now and in the coming years. That means higher taxes for us with less benefits, essentially less bang for our buck.
I believe that with our seat at the BidCo table we will have time to engage and outline the best version of a bid plan that includes what is optimal for all current and future residents of Canmore.
I have had the good fortune to work with hundreds of volunteers over the past 25 years in Canmore to help put on all sorts of events ranging from community fundraisers to recreational soccer tournaments to World Cup sporting events. When the Canmore community comes together as volunteers to host these events, we put our personal agendas aside and work for a common greater good. And it is just that, a greater good, that is the underlying goal for Canmore to help host the 2026 Olympics.
One discussion heard in the past few months is that the Olympics is not dealing adequately with anti-doping. While I agree strongly that the IOC and WADA could be doing more, let me share two thoughts on improving anti-doping outcomes. As the Chair of a number of World Cups held in Canmore, I am the person responsible for anti-doping at these events. The work done at our Canmore events by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport testing athletes in thorough and leading edge. Canada leads by example making it difficult to cheat. Second, while not well reported, there are indeed real consequences for cheating. At the most recent International Biathlon Union (IBU) Congress in September, the Czech and Canadian delegations pushed for consequences for doping violations. The outcomes were significant; the Russians lost their status as a voting IBU member and they had the World Championships and World Cups taken away for at least the next three years.
We win as a 2026 Olympic community by re-invigorating our volunteer spirit to deliver collectively what we can’t achieve individually, building lifelong friendships in the process. To those involved in sport, we win as Olympic hosts leading by example rather than sitting on the sidelines.
I think that it is prudent for Canmore to participate in the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Canmore is already an attractive place to live and to visit…with or without the games. Our maximum footprint has already been determined and our growth will reach a population of approximately 30,000 people. Alberta is growing, and Calgary is growing…this means that visitors and tourists to Canmore will increase. Growth in our population and tourists visiting Canmore will happen whether or not the Olympic games occur here in 2026.
I believe that we can use the games to obtain some key assets and tools to manage the growth that we will see. I don’t believe that we need to or should use the games as a platform for attracting more people to Canmore, whether they are tourists, visitors or residents.
In my opinion, the top 3 legacy assets and tools that we need to proactively pursue through participating in the 2026 Olympics are:
- Affordable housing. If we are able to leverage the Olympic Games to get 240+ units of affordable housing for Canmore residents, that would be a significant benefit for the community. If we can get a $116 million community asset for $4 million cash investment, I think that is a very wise use of funds. To put the housing in the CCHC-owned land on Palliser Trail would require two additional legacy assets needed by the community:
- Flood mitigation
- Pedestrian overpass over the Trans-Canada Highway
- Upgrade the Canmore Nordic Centre. This legacy asset has had a significant impact on our community since the 1988 Olympics. By upgrading the CNC and keeping it current, we will enjoy this for decades, and future generations will have the opportunity to learn to love cross country skiing.
- Long-term funding model. When Whistler was announced as the Mountain Host for the 2010 Olympics, the Resort Municipality status was expanded. This allowed Whistler to cover their costs for the games, and provided enhanced funding for marketing and infrastructure for the future of the municipality. I know that Canmore has been lobbying the Province for a similar funding model, and hosting the Olympics is a prime opportunity for that to be fulfilled.