More number crunching needed before committee decides on Calgary Olympic bid

Calgary Olympic bid report on track for July

CALGARY — More number-crunching is needed to determine whether Calgary should vie to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the chair of the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee said Monday.

The 17-member committee chaired by former police chief Rick Hanson is weighing whether it’s feasible for Calgary and nearby Rocky Mountain communities to successfully host the games in a financially responsible manner. If so, the group must then decide whether it’s prudent to bid.

In an interim report released Monday, the committee did not say whether it is leaning in any one direction, but said it’s on track to make a recommendation to city council in July.

Hanson said based on polling and consultations so far, many Calgarians like the idea of hosting the games, but have questions about the price tag and security.

“One of the things that’s so evident in talking to the community is they’re saying, ‘We don’t want to be surprised. We don’t want to kind of be overwhelmed by how good it feels to host the games… We want to know what it’s going to cost.'”

The funding required by cities that hosted recent Winter Games has averaged around $3.2 billion, the report said. That included Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver. Sochi was treated as an outlier because of its significantly higher costs.

However, Hanson said it’s tough to know how Calgary would compare as it has some existing facilities from the 1988 Winter Games that could be used again, thereby lowering the costs.

“We’ve got venues that are in really good shape still,” he said.

New facilities and upgrades will be needed, though, as the number of events and athletes has doubled since 1988. For instance, Calgary will need to have two full-sized arenas and to update or replace the out-of-date ski jump at Canada Olympic Park.  

Hanson added that having venues clustered together both in the city and the mountains would help bring down security costs.

“Have we, as a committee, landed on a yes or no? No, we have not,” said Hanson.

“We’re still waiting and drilling down to get the numbers we need because there’s only one thing this committee has, and that is credibility that we’re doing the job properly.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press