Opinion: Go for the Olympics, Calgary

CALGARY HERALD – Updated: October 27, 2018 – There’s a difference between the new and the old worlds. We, in Canada and in Calgary, are the new world. In scarcely more than a century, we have moved to a modern country and a world-class city that are the envy of hundreds of millions of people across the entire face of our planet.

We achieved these results because of a positive collective attitude, ambition and a willingness to accept challenges that would daunt those too cautious to aim high and to commit themselves to the necessary effort.

Was the outcome worth the struggle? Of course, it was. Was there risk involved? Of course, there was. But risk can be managed and risk is not the same as recklessness.

This is not the first time Calgary has considered an Olympic bid. Indeed, before Calgary won the 1988 Games, Canada had tried several times, without success. We persisted, however, and that persistence was rewarded when Calgary won our first Olympic Winter Games, in the fall of 1981. OCO’88 delivered memorable Games that put Calgary on the world map and showed the world the warmth of western hospitality, the capability of Calgary to plan and organize, and the pioneering spirit that made it possible to open up this huge country.

That detailed planning and spirit of friendship enabled Calgary to deliver splendid Winter Games despite the fact that for a period of several days during the Games — thanks to the arrival of a chinook — it was warmer in Calgary than it was in Miami. Spectators at the ski-jumping events enjoyed the competitions without shirts, let alone ski wear. Calgary made British ski-jumper Eddie the Eagle a worldwide phenomenon. What might have crippled Games elsewhere was handled seamlessly, with remarkable confidence. It was Calgary at its best.

Calgary can do this again. It will be the better for it. So will Canada and the generations who follow us, as are those who benefitted from the 1988 Games.

When Calgary won the Games, the economy, particularly in Western Canada, was not robust. Oil prices were distressed. The largest construction project in Alberta was the Saddledome. The city desperately needed to diversify its almost complete dependence on oil. Instead of wallowing in despair, Calgary came out of that cycle as a more vibrant community and one that was in a better place economically.

In less than a month, Calgarians will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to rise to another opportunity for the community and its youth to reach new heights and to inspire the world in the process. The alternative is to stagnate in the status quo.

An Olympic bid will bring new funds for development and community legacy, funds that will not be made available for other purposes. Don’t be fooled by those who say that such funds will come anyway and can be applied to other projects unrelated to the Olympics. They will not be available and they will not be applied to other projects. There will be no legacy for the future. Maintaining otherwise is a sterile and misleading debating point. Don’t fall for it and don’t let anyone else fall for it.

Get out and vote for the Calgary 2026 bid. Bring your friends, your family, your co-workers. You need to make your presence felt and demonstrate your support.

This is a winnable Olympic bid. Don’t let it be stillborn by failing to act. Embrace the vision and ambition that has made Calgary great.

This city has grown into one of our finest and most vibrant cities. Be part of the forward-looking next generation — opportunity is knocking at the door.

Richard W. Pound was the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee when Calgary won the 1988 Games and served on the board and executive committee of OCO’88.

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