Council’s Olympic committee will be asked to cancel Calgary 2026 bid and plebiscite

A recommendation will be brought forward to Calgary city council’s Olympic assessment committee Tuesday to cancel the bid process for the 2026 Winter Olympics as well as the Nov. 13 plebiscite, CBC News has confirmed.

The city and federal government were unable to reach a successful conclusion to funding talks on Monday.

Coun. Joe Magliocca said if the negotiations are ongoing, “it doesn’t really matter because tomorrow, it’s going to be the end of the Olympic bid.”

Magliocca said the committee meeting has been moved from Tuesday afternoon to 9:30 a.m.

“Unless something changes dramatically in the next hour or so, I have a hard time seeing how we continue with this bid past tomorrow’s Olympic committee meeting,” said Coun. Evan Woolley, who is chair of the committee.

The mayor’s office declined to comment on the recommendation to cancel the bid process.

If the assessment committee does decide to end the bid, it would be sent to council for a final vote on Wednesday, several members of city council confirmed.

Ottawa says no additional money on table

Canada’s minister of sport reiterated early Monday the federal government is continuing to negotiate with the city and province over an Olympic funding formula, but no additional money will be offered despite the city and province’s concerns.

Kirsty Duncan appeared on the Calgary Eyeopener, where she said the federal government has made clear “since March 2018” that it will fund up to 50 per cent of the public contribution toward the 2026 Olympic Games if Calgary is chosen as the host city.

“That is the policy on our website, and we’ve done that. We’ve come forward with a commitment of $1.75 billion,” she said, referencing a Friday announcement.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, one of the members of the Olympic assessment committee, tweeted about Duncan’s comments, saying “and now we pull the pin,” seemingly referring to ending the bid process.

And Coun. Jeromy Farkas said in an emailed statement he will be urging the assessment committee to cancel the Nov. 13 plebiscite and end the bid process even if a recommendation is not brought forward.

“Over the last few days, information has emerged confirming that there is no viable funding agreement for the 2026 Olympic Games bid,” said Farkas.

“Calgarians were promised budget and funding details a full month before the plebiscite, and it’s become clear that they will never get the complete details required for a fair and informed vote.”

Calgary’s Olympic BidCo estimates a 2026 Winter Games would cost $5.23 billion, with $3 billion of that coming from the public purse.

The $1.75 billion commitment from the feds is in 2026 dollars, which equates to $1.5 billion in 2018 dollars, or half the needed amount.

“We have been clear since the beginning we would fund up to 50 per cent, we would not go above the 50 per cent and we have never wavered from that position,” said Duncan.

Duncan also pointed out the federal contribution would match the provincial and municipal amounts.

The province has previously said it would contribute $700 million, while the city hasn’t unveiled its funding plan yet. Based on the other two orders of government, Calgary would have to contribute $800 million to get the maximum federal contribution.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci expressed outrage over the weekend at the federal announcement, with Ceci calling it “bad faith” and saying he understood there wouldn’t be a matching condition attached.

Nenshi also penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, saying he would ask city council to scrap the bid — ahead of a Nov. 13 plebiscite — if an agreement couldn’t be reached by Monday.

The city’s Olympic assessment committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday and council is set to meet for a strategy session on Wednesday.

Ottawa vague on negotiation details

Pressed repeatedly by Eyeopener host David Gray on what the three sides are negotiating if none are willing to change their position, Duncan was non-committal in her answers.

“It’s been a busy weekend and people are working hard. I’m proud to work with our partners, the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta, and we keep doing the work,” she said.

“I’m well aware of the timelines for the plebiscite. We support that Calgarians should make their voice heard, and should Calgarians decide to go forward with a bid, we will be right there beside them and we’re still working at it, we’re still at the table.”

Robert Livingstone, who runs — a website that tracks Olympic bids — said he wasn’t at all surprised by the federal position.

“Honestly, I would have been surprised to hear that the dollar matching concept would have been dropped, so there’s miscommunication at some level somewhere, and I’m not sure where that would have come from,” he said.

“It is a policy the federal government has used to fund sports events for years now. So I don’t see why it would have been different for Calgary and why they would have made a different plan, unless there was some agreement made back in March.”

Feds need to deliver original promise: Ceci

Speaking in Edmonton on Monday, Ceci said negotiations continue but the province has no more money to offer and called on the federal government to remove the matching condition.

“Seven hundred million dollars is all we can do,” he said.

“That being said, there is a path forward for this bid and it relies heavily on the federal government coming to the table with what they originally promised the province and the City of Calgary during negotiations. If the feds can commit $1.75 billion in 2018 dollars to this project and drop this 50/50 funding rule, then we have what we need and the bid can go ahead to plebiscite.”

Despite Duncan’s assertions, Ceci said the 50/50 rule was not discussed during the negotiations.

“This was learned through the news last week. This was a surprise to us,” said Ceci.

Report shows cost overruns, revenue surpluses

Calgary’s BidCo also issued results Monday of a study looking at Olympic cost overruns and revenue surpluses between 2000 and 2018

The study was done by two professors and a PhD student at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany and the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in France.

“The report intentionally excludes major infrastructure not needed to stage the Games,” it reads.

“These projects, such as roads, trains and public facilities, often complement the Games, are accelerated to coincide with the Games and may be part of the overall Games legacy. They are not, however, required to stage the Games and as such are not counted as a Games cost.”

The report found that with the exception of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, each event analyzed either broke even or had a surplus.

“This report clearly shows that, historically, Games organizing committees either balance their budgets or realize a surplus through good planning and rigorous financial management,” said BidCo chair Scott Hutcheson in a release.

“All Olympic Winter Games in this report balanced their books, and Vancouver 2010, which was modelled on the [1988] Calgary Games, showed that we host Games well in Canada and we’ll do so again in 2026.”

Should Calgary be chosen, it would be a much-needed economic boost, said Tourism Calgary CEO Cindy Ady.

“This is almost $5 billion being injected into the Calgary economy when it’s been through a pretty tough recession and is looking forward as to how it redefines itself and where it’s going to go in the future,” she said.

“Relative to just tourism, though, one out of every 10 Calgarians make their living in tourism. So if we were to go back to previous Games, whether it be Vancouver or Salt Lake or others, for sure the main beneficiary is the tourism industry. Vancouver had a double-digit increase post-Games, and every year since they’ve had double-digit increases … it’s the billion-dollar brand push that you won’t get in any other way.”

Coun. Jeff Davison said in a tweet that whether or not the bid proceeds, he and the assessment committee still intend to pursue a new event centre for the city.

Nonexistent communication on process: councillor
Magliocca said he’s glad the bid will likely end on Tuesday, adding that he only wishes it had happened sooner.

“I’m just heartbroken we had to spend all this extra money for no reason … we could have done it a long time ago,” he said.

The councillor said communications on funding negotiations and the bid process have been almost nonexistent.

“None of us have been kept in the loop,” he said. “None of us knew what was going on. I don’t know where they’re getting these numbers, I don’t know where Mary [Moran] gets her numbers, saying that we knew the provincial government was only giving us $700 million.

“Why didn’t we know this? We should have been more transparent … I just don’t know who dropped the ball here.”

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