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Calgary still not in a position to play hardball on negotiations with IOC: Expert

Calgary’s hopes for bidding on the 2026 Olympic games took an apparent blow last Friday when the province announced it would commit to only $700 million to the costs of hosting.

When talking to reporters Monday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi downplayed what that relatively low commitment would mean for a future bid, while admitting that the city would not be able to pick up all of the shortfall.

“I think if you’re looking at the city putting in $800 million dollars – more than the province – that’s not a good deal,” he said.

Previous estimates had suggested the province would put in $1 billion, and the city $500 million.

With as few as three cities left in the running to bid on the 2026 winter games, one might think Calgary could be in a position to extract a few more concessions from the IOC.

But that’s not how it works, according to Olympic expert and gamesbids.com journalist Robert Livingstone.

He said even if Calgary is the only city left in the running, the IOC still has options

“If the other two cities aren’t around and Calgary is in it, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to get a better deal. But if they say, ‘Hey we just can’t so this. We’re going to drop out, too.” Then you might see some negotiation happen.

He said only in a scenario where Calgary is walking away from the table would the IOC consider adjusting its contract, and even then, there are other options.

“There are other cities interested.” said Livingstone. “There’s Salt Lake City which could be coerced into doing it. I know they are interested.”

Livingston also noted that Barcelona has expressed interest, even though it technically dropped out of the race.

Mayor Nenshi said he’s still waiting to see what funding offer the federal government brings forth, and he sees many ways of finding a path forward on a bid.

“There are lots of ways to look at this,” said the mayor.

“There are financial products, there’s insurance, there’s working with the IOC to rethink the guarantees in a world where you’re not building and there are contingencies already in the budget, but this is a critical question that we’ve got to answer and Calgarians need to know.”