Former Olympic CEO urging confidence in Calgary bid despite cost concern

As Calgarians move closer to voting on the fate of the city’s 2026 Olympic bid, money continues to be the topic of discussion.

In the new proposal, the price tag for public contribution sits at $2.875 billion with Calgary ponying up $390 million, and another $700 million coming from the province. The federal government is pitching in $1.423 billion, matching financial commitments to event costs made by the province, the City of Calgary and the Town of Canmore.

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But if the potential bid goes over budget, the feds say they aren’t picking up those costs.

“Within our federal hosting policy, we’re not responsible for cost overruns,” Minister of Science and Sport, Kirsty Duncan, said Friday.

As work continues on the bid, British Columbia said it’s waiting for a formal proposal from the Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation.

Calgary’s bid involves Whistler hosting events like ski jumping and other alpine events, but according to B.C.’s provincial government, the details haven’t been ironed out.

“There hasn’t been a formal approach yet from Calgary or the bid committee,” Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Lisa Beare, said. “We haven’t seen a business case or a plan yet and we’re looking forward to hearing what city council decides.”

But according to BidCo CEO Mary Moran, there have been preliminary discussions with the venue, and there are plans to reach out to the province later in the process.

“The venue is actually a privately run venue and there have been many discussions with the venue operator,” Moran said Thursday, “So if there hasn’t been a discussion, we’ll make sure that’s expedited.”

On Friday, it was revealed that B.C. won’t be shouldering any of the costs for Calgary’s bid. The feds said it’s because Whistler is not directly hosting, but was approached by Calgary to use their venues.

Concern has been swirling that the bid is too risky and not enough consideration is being given to these developments.

“All the figures we see point to more risk and more concern,” No Calgary Olympics communications adviser, Erin Waite, said. “Even as they try to pull back on the costs they put in the bid, that just makes me worry more that the costs have that much further to go up.”

But a former official in charge of bringing the Winter Olympics to Vancouver in 2010 is praising Calgary’s efforts for 2026.

John Furlong was the CEO of Vancouver’s Olympic Committee and said Calgarians should have confidence in their potential bid. Furlong believes Calgary is farther ahead in their bid process than Vancouver was at this point. He also pointed to the $1.1 billion in contingency funds in Calgary’s host draft plan.

“This is the first Olympic budget I have ever seen that has much protection in it, we didn’t have anything like the contingencies in there that you have,” Furlong told Global News Morning. “So clearly a lot of smart people have gone into this and they’ve wiped out all the potential for trouble with a very healthy contingency. So, you’re starting at a better place than we did.”

The cost of hosting the Olympics in Vancouver was pegged at $4.4 billion, but ended up being $7.7 billion when it was all said and done.

Forty-six per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in Vancouver’s plebiscite with 64 per cent in favour of hosting to 36 per cent against.

“The pressure was on us to deliver the games in the black, and we knew that had we not, we would’ve lost all credibility,” Furlong said. “The worst of all credibility to lose is with the public.”

A “yes” cote in Calgary’s plebiscite is a condition from the Alberta government to receive funding for the bid; the province is also covering the $2 million price tag for the vote.

Mail-in ballots have been sent out, and advanced voting begins on November 6.

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