Calgary councillors have moved one more step forward in a plan to suspend their bid for the Calgary 2026 Winter Olympic games.
After more than four hours behind closed doors at the Olympic bid assessment committee meeting Tuesday, councillors emerged with a set of recommendations, summing up the discussion.
Calgarians were set to go to the polls on Nov. 13 in a plebiscite to determine if the city should host the 2026 Winter Games. The Olympic conversation in Calgary has been marred by polarizing rhetoric, claims the city wasn’t being transparent and questions over the potential cost, overruns and uncertainty over financial backing from other levels of government.
“We’ve covered an extensive amount of ground and it’s been definitely the most challenging file that I’ve had to deal with in five years,” said Coun. Evan Woolley, chair of the city’s Olympic bid assessment committee.
“Today, I am recommending to committee that we suspend our work and wind up our bid to host the 2026 Winter Games.”
Woolley went on to talk about the two primary purposes of the bid assessment committee: to provide oversight and guidance on the city’s participation in hosting the Winter Games and to be as transparent as possible so that Calgarians could make the best possible decision on the plebiscite.
“A third guiding principle from the beginning was that we would not bring forward support for a deal that was not fiscally responsible and not in the interest of Calgarians,” Woolley said.
He pointed at funding deals with the province and the feds as being not acceptable.
Earlier this month, the province came forward with $700 million in support for the Calgary bid. The federal government pledged up to $1.75 billion, but it came with strings attached that the funds had to be matching from other orders of government.
“Without funding agreements today, we cannot deliver on our mandate,” Woolley said.
Woolley put out the recommendations on Twitter shortly after the meeting, adding that he’s looking forward to “healthy discussion” when councillors reconvened Wednesday.
— Evan Woolley (@EWoolleyWard8) October 30, 2018
The province confirmed to LiveWire Calgary Tuesday that although they were part of ongoing last-minute negotiations, they were holding firm on their $700 million commitment.
Tuesday afternoon, the Calgary 2026 chair Scott Hutcheson said they’re still confident an agreement could be reached.
“Today, we were part of a productive and constructive discussion at City Hall. Tomorrow’s vote at Council will be of extreme interest to all Calgarians. Negotiations with government are positive, are continuing – they have not stopped – and we remain confident an agreement will be reached,” Hutcheson said in the prepared statement sent via email.
“We know thousands of Calgarians understand what’s at stake and the importance of deciding the outcome themselves. These would be Canada’s Games, Calgary’s choice.”
With little debate, the committee voted unanimously to refer a decision on the recommendations to Wednesday’s council meeting. In order for previous decisions of council to be reconsidered, as laid out in the recommendations, 10 votes are required.
Meanwhile, Calgary 2026 supporters are hoping for one last push Wednesday morning. They’ll gather together prior to the meeting to rally support for the continued pursuit of the Games.
That rally will be held at 9 a.m. in front of Calgary city hall.