Without even a decade having passed since the last Olympic Games on Canadian soil, preparations are already being put in place for the five-ring circus to return once more to the Great White North.
The Calgary Sport Tourism Authority (CTSA) has been working on a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics for two years now and on Monday, June, 20th, Calgary city council voted 13-2 to support their work on a potential bid with $5 million.
While the price tag on actually hosting the Olympics will be exponentially higher if approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), this move should be regarded as positive step in the right direction of hosting the often fabled games.
To those who are old enough to remember, this wouldn’t be the first time that Calgary hosted the Olympic Games. It was nearly three decades ago in 1988 that Calgary invited the world’s top athletes to its city for several weeks of the most popular winter athletic competition.
Buildings like the Oval, Olympic Park, Ski Jump and yes, even the Saddledome were constructed in the years leading up to the ’88 Games and are still used today by athletes from all over. It’s one of the leading reasons in support of bringing another Games to Calgary in the future.
Oversimplified, it’s a cost saving measure. The current cost of this year’s Summer Games in Rio is estimated at $11.1 billion with other Olympic Games like the 2010 Vancouver Games estimated around a $7 billion price tag. No doubt Calgary, and in turn the Canadian government, would save some money by not having to completely start from scratch to find the facilities necessary to host the Games. It’s a quality the IOC may be attracted to as well, avoiding the black eye of constructing temporary facilities that will surely be abandoned once the spotlight shifts elsewhere.
The only notable renovation will be the replacement of the Saddledome, which is already in the early stages of development with an $890 million arena-stadium in the works, eerily reminiscent of the way the Saddledome was constructed in the first place.
Those opposed to putting in an Olympic bid claim the city’s money would be better suited for other projects like fixing roads, improving schools, building hospitals or other city-wide concerns. While those concerns are no doubt noteworthy for legislators and society at large to focus on, an Olympic Games could bring economic development to ensure projects like those are more easily completed in the future.
A study commissioned by the CSTA concluded that the 2026 Games could add up to 40,000 jobs for Albertans if approved and could generate $3.7 billion in GDP to the Alberta economy and $2.6 billion in additional labour income. If true, the Games could go a long way in continuing to rebuild the province’s economy that’s currently suffering due to falling oil prices.
The most reasonable bid to submit to the IOC would be in the form of a regional bid where Edmonton, in combination with Banff and Canmore for their ski slopes, could get involved with Calgary to help fortify their chances of landing the bid. There’s power in numbers and the idea of incorporating Alberta’s two largest cities is one the IOC may not be able to shy away from.
In reality, these proposed Olympic Games are just a few months less than being a decade away. To many, that timeframe can seem as foreign as space travel. To Calgarians and those hoping the Olympics return to Canada once more, it may seem more like a sprint.
With the vote from city council, one thing is for sure: the race is on.