Calgary and the 2026 Winter Olympic Games – Yes?
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The 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary created a legacy that would span decades and shape the spirit of the city. As a kid, I remember feeling the immense pride knowing that my hometown would be the final stop on the flame torch relay and be hosting the games.
We planned family outings to watch events, cheered on relay runners, and watched in amazement as our own McMahon Stadium was broadcast on screens around the world. My Mom volunteered her time to do calligraphy for the athletes’ medal certificates, feeling thrilled that her work would be proudly displayed in the homes of champions around the world. Looking back, being a young Calgarian as we hosted the world felt like an important rite of passage in my childhood.
Now, 30 years later, our city has evolved: Calgary is at a crossroads and at the threshold of change – our economy is different; the world is different. Many grapple with how we move in a new direction with new possibilities, but at what cost? With many acknowledging that the oil industry will “never be the same,” it's important to focus our efforts on what we dare to gain, rather than what we have to lose.
When it comes to the 2026 Winter Olympic Bid, many are saying Yes, with a question mark.
Calgary will hold a plebiscite later this year, where the public will have the opportunity to cast a vote on whether they support or oppose the city hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics. But before we get there, there’s a lot of questions (and question marks) that need to be addressed.
According to Emma May, an Ambassador with Yes Calgary 2026, a grassroots organization of volunteers who are passionate about bringing the Games back to Calgary in a responsible manner, her “Yes” comes with a question mark, too.
“It’s not “Yes” at any cost – we need to look at the opportunities and challenges in a way that’s truly Calgarian,” says May. “Costs include financial considerations, but also other costs: Resources, volunteerism, infrastructure and more.
“Some people are concerned about the IOC and its track record, they want to make sure that if we move forward, it’s an ethical bid that reflects our values.”
The Calgary sport legacy created from the 1988 Winter Olympics is celebrated across the country – many winter athletes come to train and live in Calgary for the opportunity to access world-class facilities and coaches. But many of those venues require an upgrade or complete rebuild to meet contemporary Olympic needs.
“The 1988 games really helped Calgary identify who we are as a city and a culture – the spirit of volunteerism was really cemented by those Olympics,” says May. “It could be a great way to continue to build that culture with the next generation.”
A Yes bid also gives rise to the growth of the Creative Class, a concept that excites Jim Barr, founder of SnowSeekers and an Ambassador for Yes Calgary 2026.