Whistler role in potential Calgary Olympic bid would be welcome: IOC

Calgary is mulling whether to vie for the 2026 Games, and could look to facilities in B.C.

An official with the International Olympic Committee says it would welcome a bid by Calgary to hold another Winter Games using some facilities in Whistler, B.C., or elsewhere.

Calgary is mulling whether to vie for the 2026 Games and a six-member IOC delegation is in the city this week to tour venues from the 1988 Olympics and to discuss ways to reduce the cost of holding them again.

The possibility of reusing the ski jump in Whistler from the 2010 Games has been floated as an alternative to a costly refurbishment of the outdated one at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park or building a new one 100 kilometres west in Canmore, Alta., for upwards of $100 million.

Christophe Dubi, Olympic Games executive director, says it’s good news that the Whistler option is being considered.

“This goes exactly in the direction that we want,” he told a teleconference Wednesday.

“It doesn’t need to be a joint bid. It (would) remain Calgary, but using venues outside of Alberta. This is perfectly fine. This is encouraged.”

He said distance wouldn’t be a problem and noted that equestrian events were held in Hong Kong during the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

READ MORE: Whistler venues could see 2026 Olympic action

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With few cities interested in holding the Olympic Games, the IOC has made changes to make bidding and hosting cheaper and more sustainable.

“We have a little team on the ground that is doing exactly what we said we would do in this revamped canditature process, which is dialogue,” Dubi said.

Dubi, who was not on the Calgary trip, said he spoke to city councillors and Mayor Naheed Nenshi by phone earlier in the day.

IOC representatives have already visited other potential contenders — Sion, Switzerland and Stockholm — and plan to go to Sapporo, Japan just before the Games next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Calgary city council voted in November to spend up to $2 million on top of $5 million already earmarked to explore a bid, but only $1 million would be released until it is known what the federal and provincial governments are willing to contribute to a bid. Council is expected to address the question again on Jan. 29.

City staff estimated a bid price tag would be between $25 million and $30 million. The cost of holding the Games has been pegged at $4.6 billion, with revenues covering about half that.

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., cost $7.7 billion.

Dubi listed off a variety of ways that costs could be reduced for host cities: using energy more efficiently at the International Broadcast Centre, encouraging public transit, shifting some responsibilities to sports federations and ensuring venues aren’t any bigger than they need to be.

He said the IOC has said it would provide US$925 million to the successful 2026 bid city, but called that a preliminary number.

The IOC will invite cities to bid for 2026 this October and the deadline will be January 2019.

Dubi said Calgary has until the end of March to decide whether it’s interested in moving to the next phase of talks with the IOC.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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