While two camps are forming to either support or oppose Calgary’s potential hosting of the Winter Olympics in 2026, one group is looking for a middle path.
Better Spent 2026 media spokeswoman Kate Jacobson said she and a few others came together when they saw the ‘no’ argument for the Olympics was mainly centered around financial arguments.
“It appears to be divided into two groups,” she said. “There’s people who want the Olympics to happen and then there’s people who oppose any and all spending.”
Jacobson said Better Spent 2026 still thinks spending money on good projects and services is an important part of city-building. They just don’t think hosting the Olympics again is the best way to do that.
“We think spending is important but that Calgarians should see spending that aligns with their values,” said Jacobson.
She said right now they are a team of eight people who are speaking with officials, academics and others about what priorities would be better than the Olympics. They hope to put that information out to voters before the Nov. 13 plebiscite on hosting the Olympics.
Many of the arguments for hosting the Olympics revolve around leveraging money from other orders of government. In her presentation to Calgary city council on Sept. 11 of this year, Calgary 2026 CEO Mary Moran talked about the city receiving $2.2 billion in IOC and sponsorship money, and 1.5 billion in investment from the federal government.
“That’s $3.7 billion that would go to somewhere else in the world or somewhere else in the country if we didn’t host the games,” said Moran.
Jacobson said that may be true to a certain extent, but her group doesn’t buy the argument that hosting the Olympics is the only way to unlock those dollars.
“The fact that that money is earmarked for the Olympics clearly means that it exists to be spent. It means to me, it could be spent on things that aren’t the Olympics.”
She said better snow clearing and accessibility, social housing and better public transit are just a few of the things Calgarians should instead be focusing on.
“There is basically an endless list of things I think would be better to do with this money than spend it on an Olympic Bid,” said Jacobson.
“The process of deciding what the city should spend money on should be a democratic process where Calgarians have the opportunity to really sit and think about what we want our city to look like, and what is important for us to spend our money on.”