New agreement could keep Calgary's Olympic hopes alive

Oct 31 2018, 2:53 pm

The dream of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary hasn’t faded to black just yet.

Following an Olympic Committee meeting in the morning of Monday, October 30, an agreement was reached between the provincial and federal governments that would see the cost of hosting the games lowered to just $370 million.

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The previous worry was that the City of Calgary would be left with a bill of $800 million, a result of the Government of Alberta anteing up $700 million and leaks that reported the Federal Government of Canada would only be willing to cover $1.5 billion of the $3 billion needed from public funding.

An October 30 letter published by the Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation and signed by both Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Canada’s Minister of Sport and Science explains the funding agreement.

The letter says that the overall amount needed from public funding has been lowered from the initial $3 billion down to $2.875 billion (in 2018 dollars).

As was stated on October 12, the Province of Alberta will be providing $700 million — though only if the city-wide plebiscite on November 13 is successful.

The letter states that the Government of Canada will be providing $1.423 billion, “matching the financial commitments to the core events costs by the Government of Alberta, City of Calgary, and Town of Canmore,” along with $30 million in leveraging initiatives.

The proposed contribution from the City of Calgary is $370 million in cash, $150 million in improvements towards Victoria Park and access to the Stampede grounds which will be done in conjunction with the Government of Alberta, and an insurance redemption amount of $200 million to cover contingencies.

All told, that’s $720 million — though not accounting for how much the Government of Alberta will be putting towards the Victoria Park or Stampede improvements — with the chance of holding onto $200 million that has been put aside for contingencies.

While the letter has been signed by representatives of both the provincial and federal governments, the space for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s signature remains blank.

The Calgary City Council will be discussing, and voting on, whether or not the city should continue with the bid at a strategic meeting of council beginning at 9:30 am today. Councillors spent roughly four hours discussing the Olympic bid behind closed doors at a 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Assessment Committee meeting on Tuesday, though it is likely that the newly signed agreement will be cause for further discussion.

A release from Calgary 2026 follows up on the letter, stating that the deal would mean $4.4 billion injected into Calgary’s economy, $1 billion in wages through 15,400 jobs, and that “for every dollar Calgary invests, it gets $10 dollars in return.”

“This is a proposal that makes sense and is a good deal for Calgarians. I’m confident we and our government partners can agree to move forward and reach an agreement in principle,” said Scott Hutcheson, Board Chair, Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation (BidCo), in the release.

“I know City Council understands how important this is to Calgary, that they know what’s at stake here, and that they will show their strong leadership and allow Calgarians to decide the outcome of the Olympic and Paralympic bid at a plebiscite November 13. These will be Canada’s Games, Calgary’s choice.”

More to come…