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Calgary 2026 bid details to be rolled out as city gears up for plebiscite

Calgarians are about to get a close look at what hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games would entail.

The bid corporation Calgary 2026 will present to city council early next week a draft hosting plan, which will outline the investment required and the legacy left should the city go ahead with a bid.

“I think we have to show that all the parties are doing hard work to get to where we need to get to,” 2026 chair Scott Hutcheson said.

The International Olympic Committee’s deadline to submit 2026 bids is January. The successful city will be named in September 2019.

A non-binding plebiscite asking Calgarians to support or reject hosting a Winter Games is scheduled for Nov. 13. The vote would be cancelled, however, if city council decides to bail on a bid.

Council had set Sept. 10 as both a deadline to be fully informed on the risks, costs and benefits of 2026, as well as an off-ramp should council be unsatisfied with the information.

The draft hosting plan is expected to be unveiled the following day, however, on Sept. 11.

The city’s Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games assessment committee chaired by Coun. Evan Woolley was presented with the draft hosting plan in a closed meeting Tuesday.

“Next week, Calgarians will be given the vast majority of information they need to make a decision on whether we should or shouldn’t host an Olympics,” Woolley said.

“That will include capital costs as well as operating budgets associated with Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Games. Legacy venues such as the speedskating oval and the nordic centre in nearby Canmore are foundational to a potential 2026 bid.

“Yes Calgary 2026” and “No Calgary Olympics” organizations have been mobilizing.

The city conducted a poll in July to take the public’s temperature towards hosting another Winter Games.

Of the 500 Calgarians surveyed by telephone, 53 per cent either strongly or somewhat supported a bid, 33 per cent were opposed, 13 per cent were undecided and one per cent refused opinion.

The margin of error was 4.38 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

The poll indicated the cost of hosting was top of mind for all those surveyed.

While a Calgary Bid Exploration Committee estimated a price tag of $4.6 billion and games revenues covering almost half that figure, the estimate was projected to increase with a more detailed cost analysis.

Related: 2026 would be a historic sports year for Canada

Related: COC session vote approves Calgary as potential host for 2026 Olympics

Related: Alberta governments backing possible Calgary bid for 2026 Games

By comparison, the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., cost roughly $7.7 billion.

Since CBEC produced its number, the IOC has committed to giving the successful 2026 host city US$925 million, or CDN$1.2 billion, in cash and services.

But missing from the draft hosting plan would be the financial contributions of the federal and provincial governments to the games. Those numbers aren’t expected until early October.

The province has committed to providing its figure 30 days before the plebiscite.

Coun. Druh Farrell feels what the province and the feds will pay is crucial information council and the public needs now.

“We still don’t have all the information we need in order to make an informed decision,” she said. “We still haven’t received assurances from other orders of government on the partnership and what they would mean.

“We have some estimates and there’s a range, but we really can’t talk about them with any certainty until we have an agreement.

“I remain concerned about the financial aspect of this. We would be really putting all our energy into sport — I think sport is incredibly important to Calgary — but it would leave very little room for other priorities.”

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said any agreement between the three levels of government has to make hosting affordable for the city and fit its existing capital priorities.

But the financials he’s seen so far have made him optimistic.

“(It’s) Absolutely doable in terms of things we need to build, things that are priorities in any case,” the mayor said. “I am very comfortable with going to the people with this plebsicite.”

A public engagement program will be rolled out starting next week.

The city will attempt to lay out the nuts and bolts of the hosting plan in a neutral tone, while Calgary 2026 is expected to be more pro-Games in its message as the champion of a bid.

“I think you’re going to see an unbelievably robust, broad and in-depth engagement with Calgarians around a whole range of topics in the coming 10 weeks,” Woolley said.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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The Canadian Press

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