Calgary’s bid to land the 2026 winter Olympic and Paralympic Games will head to a plebiscite later this month after narrowly surviving a city council vote held yesterday (Wednesday).
The development comes after the bid seemingly appeared over earlier this week, after Calgary’s Olympic assessment committee recommended the city end plans amid a funding dispute with the Canadian federal government.
This development led to the Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation announcing on Tuesday evening that an agreement had been reached between the federal and provincial governments to consider a funding proposal that would provide their share of the public dollars needed to stage the 2026 Games. The announcement came ahead of the tabling of a motion to the city council yesterday calling for the cancellation of the scheduled plebiscite on the bid.
With 10 of the 15 council votes needed to accept the motion to scrap the November 13 plebiscite asking Calgarians if they wanted to host the Olympics, yesterday’s meeting ultimately saw a vote of 8-7 in favour of axing the referendum, meaning it will remain in place.
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi was among those who wanted the plebiscite to go ahead. “It was a very close vote,” he said, according to the Canadian Press news agency. “Over the next few days I will be trying to explain this deal to people, but I’m now at the point where I can actually say to people ‘this is a great deal we’ve negotiated’, and I’m encouraging people to vote yes.”
While the result of the plebiscite will be non-binding, it is expected to influence the next council vote on Calgary 2026. “This is a great opportunity for Calgarians,” Calgary 2026 chief executive Mary Moran said. “Now it’s important for them to get informed and understand this is a good deal. This is C$4.4bn (€2.95bn/$3.35bn) of investment coming into our community that should be taken very seriously.”
Tuesday’s revised financial roadmap was presented to the council yesterday. Under the new plan, the estimated cost of the Games has been reduced by C$125m to C$5.075bn. Calgary 2026 has reduced its proposed levels of public investment from C$3bn to C$2.875bn. The commitment needed from the Alberta government remained steady at C$700m, while the federal government will provide C$1.453bn.
However, significant opposition remains for the bid. Franco Terrazzano, director of the Alberta arm of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said: “The CTF will be continuing to educate the public on why the Olympic bid is just not a good choice for Calgarians.
“Unfortunately today city council did not end the bid. This is a smoke-and-mirror show right now. We don’t have a deal between the three levels of government. We have a deal to start negotiating a deal.”