As a born and raised Calgarian, I know how proud Calgarians are of the 1988 Winter Olympics. The Olympics put Calgary on the map and contributed to our enduring culture of sport. It was a thrilling time for Calgary and the first time we saw ourselves as a big city.
It isn't surprising that the idea of hosting the Olympics again in 2026 has Calgarians feeling nostalgic. While the Calgary Olympics were a success, 1988 was a simpler time. The Olympics now cost many billions of dollars ($1 billion for security alone), cost overruns are expected, and the municipalities are left with the bill. Research shows the promised economic benefits rarely come to fruition.
Further billions are necessary for new and renovated venues. The Canada Olympic Park ski jumps, Nakiska ski hill, the Saddledome, and the Olympic Oval do not meet current requirements or expectations of modern Olympic venues. Some suggest that the in-limbo CalgaryNEXT proposal could pick up some of the required venue space, but at over $1.8 billion, that proposal is not in the best interests of all Calgarians, even if combined with an Olympic bid.
Most concerning for me is that corruption still runs deep at the International Olympic Committee and in its member organisations. Reports of bribery and questionable deals are all too common.
All of these concerns are reflected in recent decisions around the world to pull out of bidding for Olympics. Boston, Oslo, Stockholm, and Munich all abandoned their bids to host the Games. The tremendous costs of the Games and expected favours are also discouraging more cities from entering the race.
When we have crucial commitments to invest in flood mitigation, Green Line LRT, affordable housing, and economic diversification, I am sceptical that spending billions on the Olympic Games is in Calgary's best interest. It is enticing to think 2026 could be another 1988, though it's important to remember that much has changed in 30 years. The Olympics are not the city-shaping exercise they once were. We need to spend our money on everyday benefits to Calgarians, and not on risky mega-events.
Despite these concerns, the majority on Council voted to explore a bid for 2026. It is now crucial to ensure proper oversight and governance of this work. We need to ask tough questions on whether a bid is viable.
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.