Calgary’s 2026 Games don’t have to break the bank

 
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Canadian Olympic Committee

Calgary’s 2026 Games don’t have to break the bank

"Olympics can be expensive, but they don’t have to be"

By DOUG FIRBY

Forget massive artsy buildings, like Beijing’s flashy $480-million Bird’s Nest stadium. If they decide to bid for the 2026 Olympic Games, Calgarians will do it with a tight fist – reviving and reusing facilities from 1988.

“We have a lot of great assets,” says Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary 2026. With some refurbishment, “they could last us another 30 years.”

Moran says Calgary has the jelly to show how facilities can be reused and “rekindled” with a little love. It’s the only way the Games would make sense in a relatively small market.

“We’re a second-tier city, not a first-tier city,” says Moran. “We have to live within our means.”

The tab for hosting the Olympics in Calgary has been set at $4.6 billion or more – including infrastructure, security, travel and many other costs. The cash would come from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), senior governments, corporate sponsorship and some local tax revenue.

That’s a big number, for sure, but it’s one-third the $12.9 billion spent in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, and it’s a tenth of the – cough, cough – $50 million+ spent in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Polishing up some old shoes

Bringing old facilities back to life is a huge way to cut costs. The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) cooked up a preliminary shopping list in 2017 and rang in a bill of just less than $392 million (although that number is expected to grow with inflation).

Much of what Calgary built to host the 1988 Winter Olympics stands, and could be used with some updating. WinSport (formerly Canadian Olympic Park) is one. With a fresh face, it could host bobsleigh, skeleton, luge, aerials, moguls, slopestyle, halfpipe, big and para bobsleigh, according to CBEC’s 2017 report.

But it couldn’t host ski-jumping without major surgery – a doubtful prospect, since it’s not really seen as a “legacy” sport.

“It comes down to dollars and cents,” says Moran. “What is the long-term demand for ski-jumping?”

Other spots – including Whistler, B.C., have not been ruled out as ski-jump spots: “It’s not a long distance in a relative sense.”

Curling could also be hosted out of town because Calgary doesn’t have enough ice slabs. Moran says the committee is looking for venues in Edmonton and even “out of province.” Moran says curling fans are “strongly loyal” to their sport and tend to have less interest in other Olympic sports, so a distant location could work.

Photographer
Canadian Olympic Committee