Calgary mayor on the offensive ahead of 2026 bid D-Day
Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary, has slammed as "remarkably shortsighted" a decision by city councillors to hold a new vote next week that could end the Canadian city's hopes of staging the 2026 winter Olympic Games.
Because of a schedule clash, Nenshi was absent on Tuesday when councillors decided to hold a vote on whether to proceed any further with a bid, amid concerns about a lack of transparency in the Olympic file.
That vote is slated for Monday.
Nenshi told a provincial news conference yesterday: "I think this is remarkably shortsighted, particularly when we’re looking at an investment that would be historic into the economy of Calgary at a time when we desperately need investment. If this fails, I think that many articles in many books will be written about what Calgary did wrong here."
He continued: "Let’s be blunt. It was purely political,. A couple of members of council thought that at this moment enough of their colleagues are irritated that they might be able to get the eight [required votes]."
The mayor said it is premature to end the process before Calgary residents have their say and a full financial picture emerges of potential funding from other levels of government, as well as from the International Olympic Committee and the private sector.
Last month the city council voted in favour of creating a bid corporation by eight votes to six.
The provincial and federal governments then announced that they would together put forward C$20.5 million for the creation of an Olympic bid committee, with Alberta’s NDP government’s C$10-million pledge dependent on a referendum to gauge support for the bid.
Calgary’s bid exploration committee pegged the cost of hosting the games at C$4.6 billion, which would require more than C$2 billion in public funding.
The threat of the bid collapsing comes as a new poll suggested that a slight majority of Calgarians want the city to stage the 2026 Olympics.
In the poll, commissioned by Ski Jumping Canada and conducted by Janet Brown Opinion Research, 55 per cent of respondents support moving ahead on a bid. That number jumped to 62 per cent for the Alberta province.
Support is higher among young respondents, with 75 per cent of those between the ages of 18 to 24 wanting a bid, compared with just 49 per cent for those 65 and older.
Calgary was one of seven cities to meet the IOC's 31 March deadline for declaring their intention to bid, the others being Sapporo (Japan), Stockholm (Sweden), Milan/Turin (Italy), Erzurum (Turkey), Sion (Switzerland) and Graz/Schladming (Austria), whose municipal council yesterday established the initial funding agreement for the bid corporation, Grazer Winter Games 202g GmbH.
The Graz bid is being led by managing director Markus Pichler, formerly chief executive of the 2017 Special Olympic World Winter Games, the multi-sport games for people with intellectual disabilities, which took place in Graz and Schladming.
The bid team will host a workshop on 23 April for all stakeholders, ahead of a three-day visit from IOC officials, which begins on 7 May. A feasibility study for the bid is expected to be completed in June.
In October last year, 53 per cent of the population of the Tyrol region rejected an earlier plan by Innsbruck and Tyrol to bid to host the 2026 games.
The IOC will award the 2026 games in September 2019.