3 weeks until plebiscite, feds still quiet on Olympic contribution

Oct 26 2018, 2:48 am

With less than three weeks before Calgarians are asked to decide on whether or not they’d like the Olympics to return to Calgary in 2026, the federal government has yet to announce how much of the bill it is willing to foot.

One month prior to the November 13 plebiscite, the Government of Alberta announced that it would be willing to put forward $700 million of the $3 billion in public funding needed to see Calgary hosting.

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A total cost of $5.23 billion was declared in September when Calgary 2026 released their Draft Hosting Plan Concept, though the additional $2.23 needed in funding is expected to come from a US$925 million (CAN$1.2 billion) investment from the International Olympics Committee alongside revenue from the games.

Still, neither the city nor Ottawa has outright stated how much they would be willing to put forward, with the former waiting on word from the latter.

“I’m still waiting on final confirmation of the federal government’s contribution,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in an exclusive October 25 interview with Daily Hive.

“It is very hard to go into the plebiscite without that number — they need to hurry up on it.”

Nenshi spoke on the Olympics bid just one day after the International Olympics Committee was in Calgary to answer questions about the 2026 Winter Games.

When asked if the IOC could contribute anything more towards the games if they were to be held in Calgary, Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi stated that they would be holding firm at the US$925 million.

“We give away everything we can according to what we generate, and today the $925 million is the absolute maximum that we can go to,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The federal government may, at the most, pledge $1.5 billion towards the 2026 games — that is, if it’s abiding by the maximum contributing limit of “50% of the total public sector contribution to the event,” as stated in the Federal Policy for hosting international sport events, which was implemented in January 2018.

Many Calgarians have been vocal in their opposition towards the games, with multiple grassroots groups forming in the hopes of dissuading Calgarians from approving the bid on November 13.

The $5.23 billion cost of the Olympics may look large to those who see a successful bid resulting in nothing more than “a two-week party,” but Nenshi said that hosting in 2026 means a lot more than just the Games.

“It really is about ‘how do you take what could just be a 50-day party and turn it into something that is long-term community shaping?”

Nenshi touched on the notion that hosting the games would both bring young planners, workers, and athletes into the city and also provide a much-needed revitalization for its ageing Olympic infrastructure — infrastructure that is currently being used by athletes from Canada, and the world.

“In Pyeongchang, Canada won 28 medals, 23 of which were from athletes who trained in, or had ties to, Calgary,” Nenshi said.

“We have strongly built that winter sports centre of excellence in Calgary, but the facilities are getting old, and frankly Vancouver got away without having to keep the facilities because it was always known that that centre of training would still be in Calgary. ”

International athletes potentially coming back to the city to train following the games is another plus, according to Nenshi, as they would be a valuable addition to Calgary’s sporting community.

“It really helps kids who compete in those sports, because they have role models and coaches and mentors who are top notch international athletes in those sports.

“It also helps just an overall culture of healthy communities and participation in sport… the idea is to really build that kind of athletic legacy and I think that that is just a great thing for young people.”

Chandler WalterChandler Walter

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