CALGARY HERALD Updated: November 9, 2018 – The path to hosting an Olympic Games isn’t always golden.
At times, the road can seem a bit tarnished, even treacherous with twists, turns and unexpected bumps.
Case in point? The recent debate regarding a potential bid from Calgary to host the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The confusion almost resulted in robbing Calgarians of the chance to vote in a plebiscite Tuesday and decide whether they’d like to see the bid proceed.
But despite any missteps that may have recently occurred, let’s hope this doesn’t lead to a missed opportunity — the opportunity to have a global spotlight shine on our city and to ignite a new economic spark.
Just look at the numbers surrounding the proposed bid, which we agree is fiscally responsible. The City of Calgary contribution is slated to be $390 million, part of a public investment of $2.875 billion. Private funding would amount to another $2.233 billion.
Calgary 2026 bid executives estimate that would mean $4.4 billion would flow into the local economy, creating 15,400 jobs. While some may be short-term jobs, it’s better than no-term, especially for laid-off folks who’ve been looking for work for some time and for young people seeking their first employment.
Whether you agree with those numbers or not, there is no doubt the Olympics would be a shot in the arm to the local economy.
If there are no Olympics, those billions don’t arrive. It’s as simple as that.
Some financial experts note there’s no guarantee about Games-related longer-term growth.
It’s true that hosting an Olympics doesn’t directly solve the office vacancy problem, or the economic environment in Calgary and Alberta. However, the Games would attract global attention and bring Calgary to the forefront of conversations that can lead to attracting new businesses.
Casting an eye back to when Calgary hosted the Games in 1988 also provides some insight.
After the ’88 Games, tourist numbers grew, as did new arrivals.
Companies relocated here: Canadian Pacific Railway moved its national headquarters to Calgary from Montreal; Shaw Communications moved from Edmonton; and Suncor Inc. relocated from Ontario.
A steady stream of World Cup and other international sporting events began occurring in Calgary, as did global economic and political forums. And, despite Calgary’s relatively small population of 657,000 at the time, then-mayor Ralph Klein was invited to a Big City mayors’ conference in Venezuela.
Calgary was taking its place on the world stage.
Now, we have the opportunity to do so again.
Hosting another Olympics would breathe new life into old facilities, provide a needed field house, lead to increased recreational opportunities for people of all ages and result in new social housing. Importantly, cities that have hosted the Paralympics also report the event leads to improved awareness and access for citizens facing a variety of physical challenges.
The road, of course, to hosting the Paralympics and Olympics in 2026 won’t always be easy, but since when did Calgarians want an easy route?
We pride ourselves on our can-do attitude. There’s an indefatigable spirit here.
With ambitions as far reaching as the endless prairie skies, the Calgary way has always been this: Think big and reach high.
It’s an attitude that led to the sensation of the Turner Valley oilfields, the creation of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth and the success of the 1988 Winter Olympics in modern times.
We live in a global society and a world-ranked city. Let’s make sure our city continues to take its place on the international stage.
We urge all Canadians to inform themselves, and whether you agree with us or not — please vote on Tuesday. Let’s not let the world pass us by. And let’s get some of our mojo back.
We say Yes.