It might be time to dust off any old white hats or skis from 1988 as the City of Calgary is considering the possibility of once again hosting the Winter Olympic Games come 2026.
In June of 2016, Calgary City Council approved the creation of the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC), a committee led by former police chief Rick Hanson tasked with exploring the possibility of the Winter Olympic, and Paralympic Games.
Sean Beardow, communications manager and public engagement and community impact lead of CBEC says the committee is not leaning one way or the other on whether or not the games should come back to Calgary. “We are strictly a bid exploration committee,” says Beardow, “so we are neither for nor against potentially bidding on, or hosting an Olympics. We are a fact-finding body.”
As for why they are exploring the possibility of a bid, Beardow says there are a lot of reasons.
“There is an economic stimulus that comes with the games in the form of construction jobs in the preparation, tourism, obviously, big things like that. But for every plus there’s also potential negatives -- hosting the games is not an inexpensive endeavour.”
The committee’s feasibility study is using up to $5 million from the fiscal sustainability reserve to investigate this potential.
Costing $766 million in 1988, the Calgary Journal estimated that inflation of the Canadian dollar would drive that cost to $1.3 billion if Calgary were to host the Olympics today, however the official financials have yet to be released.
With this investigation also comes the exploration of venues to use within the city. The previous Olympic home in Calgary, Canada Olympic Park (COP), was originally built to host athletes from around the world in 1988 and has since become a national hub for winter sport athletes and competitions.
“Over the years the legacy has lived on for a long time and we still use those venues,” says Dale Oviatt, the director of communications at WinSport.
However, even though the provincial government has been supplying COP with funding to improve their venues, it is still in need of approximately $20 million for further improvement.
The International Olympic Committee is not opposed to having duplicate host cities, especially since a city like Calgary already has many systems in place and with a venue like COP it may be easier to bring them back.
Oviatt believes the real benefit comes from the impact on not only the city but also the athletes who are working towards their Olympic dreams and may have been too young in previous Canadian games.
“I think the real benefit comes after the Olympics,” adds Oviatt. “As much as the young kids would be excited about performing in their hometown it’s also about the impact it would have after that.”
The previous Winter Olympics in 1988 were the first Winter Games to be hosted by a Canadian city. The first sliding centre in Canada was created for the games and the Nordic Centre in Canmore continued as a training centre for Olympic athletes.
The only complication the games faced was the intense chinooks that caused some alpine skiing events to be rescheduled.
Calgarians do not have to wait long to find out about Olympic possibilities as the CBEC must issue their final recommendation to City Council in July of 2017, then issue the result to the International Olympic Committee by September 2017.
- By Tatianna Ducklow and Mason Benning